Articles Posted in Pet Trusts

Individuals thinking about estate planning may already be considering their spouses, children, and even important charities and foundations that are meaningful to them. It is important for planners to also consider implementing estate plans for their beloved cats and dogs. While you cannot leave money to your pet in your will, there are other tools to ensure your pets are cared for in your absence.

Choosing a Caretaker

In many cases, it may be clear and undisputed who your pet’s caretaker may be. You may think just telling your executor who will care for your cat or dog will be enough. But in the unfortunate event a dispute arises or your caretaker can no longer accept the responsibility, a formal arrangement in your will can ensure your pet is properly cared for. If you do not have a trusted loved one, many arrangements exist that will ensure your pet has a safe caretaker, such as SPCA programs, private pet sanctuaries, and veterinary school programs.

Pet Trusts

Some estates will leave a sum of money to their chosen caretaker to cover expenses related to animal care. Others, however, may choose to create a pet trust. Pet trusts are recognized in every state, including Texas, as legal estate planning instruments. Similar to other types of trusts, the trust creator places funds or assets into the trust for the benefit of the pet. The pet owner will name a trustee and even a successor trustee charged with managing these funds. Acceptable uses include veterinary and medical costs, food and care expenses, grooming needs, and even end of life plans for the pet, such as burial or cremation. Individuals creating pet trusts should clearly describe and identify their pet in the trust to avoid potential abuse.

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People love their pets. And in many households, pets are a beloved part of the family. Because of this—and since pets cannot take care of themselves—many Texans worry about who will care for their pets when they pass away. So while they may not be the first thought when putting together an estate plan, incorporating pets into the process is extremely important. Below are various questions that pet owners have about including their pets in their estate plan along with solutions to these problems.

Who Will Care for My Pet?

The first step in including a pet in their estate plan is to list in their will who would have physical custody of the pets. Sometimes, it may be a simple answer to who would take care of a pet if its owner passes away. However, this is not always the case. Even if the answer seems apparent, it is important to include this in an estate plan.

There are many things to consider when deciding who will take care of pets. First, is the individual willing to provide lifetime care to the pet? This often can be a major commitment, and it is essential to discuss this with the person before naming them as the pet’s caretaker in the will. Secondly, are the pets comfortable around the individual? Considering that a change in owners can be emotionally challenging for the pets, it is important to choose an individual the animals enjoy being around.

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2.4.20A will or trust explains what you want to have happen to your assets when you die, hopefully in a very, very long time. While most people understand that a will explains what to do with money, property, and children, there are other parts you might be surprised by.

MSN’s recent article entitled “3 surprising things you might not think to include your will” tells about three things to include in your will that you may not have thought about before.


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8.5.19A will serves several purposes. It gives you the power to distribute your possessions, according to your own wishes. It also lets you name who should take care of your children, if they are minors when you die, and of your pets, if you provide for them in the will.

Just because your wealth isn’t measured in billions, doesn’t mean you don’t need a will. Without one, explains Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “Do You Really Need a Will?” you’ll have no say in what happens once you pass away. There may also be less for your heirs to inherit. There will also be more legal costs and stress.

Each state has laws that pertain to the distribution of a person's estate, if they die without a will. These laws most likely won’t mesh with your personal desires. If you don't have a will, ask yourself why you don't. Perhaps you think you don't need one. However, more than likely you do. If you're putting off starting this important estate planning task, here are some things to consider.

5.25.17Britney Spears five dogs enjoy the same quality of life as she does, but without a pet trust, if anything happened to her, their lavish lifestyle would be at risk.

Pet trusts are no longer the exclusive province of the rich and famous, but a recent article in Trust Advisor reports that while Americans spend lavishly on our pets, they are still considered property and don’t have legal status or protection. According to “Britney Spears Pet Fetish Feeds New Estate Planning Craze,” whether you’re talking about protecting Britney’s pampered pooches or just an average American pet, you’ll need a pet trust to protect companion animals, if you become incapacitated or pass away.

While most of us want to ensure that our pets have loving care, rumors of the expense of Britney’s dogs gives us a view of some of the upper limits—or lack thereof—of how much modern pet pampering can cost. Britney spends about $30,000 a year on her dogs. This is enough to support over 100 typical American pets. One haircut for one of her dogs would feed an average animal for a year.

7.5.16Whether your love is animal rights or protecting the planet, a trust donation creates a legacy that reflects your values and supports the future.

A woman’s love for animals was reflected in a significant trust donation given to the Little Rock Zoo, as reported in The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette article, “Animal lover leaves Little Rock Zoo nearly $3M, biggest gift ever.” A trust created an endowment fund, the Jayne and Fletcher Jackson Foundation, which will fund many programs at the zoo for years to come.

"Animals are what made her happy,” a zoo representative commented. “It was no surprise after we got to know her that the zoo was what she wanted to leave her estate to upon her passing."

Family with dogPam Miller, founder of a no-kill cat shelter and adoption agency, encourages pet owners to include family pets in their estate planning process.  As part of her daily routine, Miller brought two cats to her shelter just days before their owner passed away so that they could find new homes, as described in The (Raleigh, NC) News Observer, "Providing for your pets after you're gone."

Caring for and finding new homes for the pets of the recently departed is something SAFE Haven does frequently, but there must be a plan and funds set aside. It takes planning and resources. Many folks make assurances that their pets will be cared for after their owners pass. After a loved one's death, with so many things to do, it's easy to forget about the pets.

Put a card in your wallet detailing how many pets you have and their location. It should include the contact information for your pet’s veterinarian, their favorite pet sitter, and a trusted friend to whom you've spoken about caring for your pets if something unfortunate occurs. If you want to do this and leave a trust for your pets, speak with an estate planning attorney.

Pampered dogSam Simon,  co-creator of The Simpsons, was a devoted owner of his rescue dog, Columbo.  And Columbo has enjoyed sitting in the lap of luxury.  One of Columbo's monthly bills was for acupuncture treatments, twice a week, at a monthly cost of $3,640. That was just one of his regular medical and therapeutic treatments.

Simon passed away earlier this year after a struggle with colon cancer. Most of his fortune was put in trust to be used to promote animal rights. Columbo, however, was given over to Tyson Kilmer, an animal trainer and Simon's friend. Now Kilmer and the trust that Simon created are in a bitter dispute over money to pay for the dog's care.

Kilmer claims that he needs $140,000 a year to maintain the same treatments that Simon gave Columbo. He claims that the trust refuses to give him the funds. The trust has a different story.

Family with dogWe all love our pets!  Leslie Ann Mandel really loved her 32 cockatiels, and her will included a mention of each and every one of her precious pets.

Mandel even put $100,000 into a trust for their care and left detailed instructions about how to care for them. She appointed her stepson as the trustee and he is now responsible for the birds.

The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog wrote about this story in a recent article,"Deceased Millionaire Leaves $100,000 To A Pet Trust For Her 32 Cockatiels."

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