Have you considered what will become of your pet or animal companion upon your death or disability? If not, now is the time to prepare and put in place a legally enforceable plan to quickly and easily provide for your pet’s food, shelter, and care long after you are gone.
While you can always ask a friend or relative to look out for your pet, they aren’t legally obligated to do so unless you create a pet trust as part of your estate plan. A pet trust provides peace of mind for pet owners, and provides a legally enforceable roadmap to the individuals entrusted to care for your pet.
What is a Pet Trust?
In 2011, Massachusetts joined the majority of states in providing for the creation and recognition of pet trusts. The law now authorizes pet owners to create a trust instrument naming his or her pet as beneficiary and appointing a trustee to care for and manage financial resources on the pet's behalf. Working together, you and your attorney can plan for the best method to ensure that your pet will continue to have a quality life.
Can I Provide for my Pet in my Will?
No. Even though you consider your pet to be a companion and devoted friend, legally your pet is ‘personal property’ – and is not given the status of a person. As such, the pet may not be the beneficiary of any property or assets under your Will.
Can I Leave my Pet to a Beneficiary Under my Will?
You can make a bequest of your pet to a trusted friend or family member in your will - just as you would with any other article of persoanl property - but, that may not be the best approach. Why? First, most pet owners do not consider their pets to be personal property. Secondly, your will must go through probate before it takes effect, a process which can often take several months. During this uncertain time, legal ownership of the pet will be in serious question, and your pet may go without necessary care and attention.
How Does Setting Up a Trust Help me Provide for my Pet?
Unlike a will that is subject to the probate process, a trust becomes effective immediately upon the terms outlined in the trust instrument itself – usually death or disability. Your trust specifies the details concerning the care and control of your pet, as well as making funds available. Your trust can also give specific directions about the daily care, medical attention, physical control, and even burial of your pet.
What is a Trust and How Does it Work to Provide for the Care of my Pet?
A trust is a legal entity set up to accomplish a particular purpose. You and your attorney will discuss and then put into writing details such as when, and under what circumstances, your trust will take effect. Other terms include how the trust will be funded, who will be the trustee, successor trustee, beneficiary, and caretaker, and how the trustee or caretaker will manage your pet and the funds for your pet.
How Much Money Should I Leave for the Care of my Pet?
We will work together with you to evaluate the factors that influence this decision. You need to consider your finances, your pet, and the amount of care that will likely be involved for the pet’s anticipated lifespan. Obviously, providing for the care of some pets will be more expensive than for others. For example, if your pet is an elderly dog, you will not need to designate as much as you would for a young horse.
If you have already set up an estate plan with our office, contact us to discuss how you can add a pet trust to your current estate plan.
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