Does Your Estate Plan Include Your Pets?

Have you considered your pet or pets when planning your estate? If not, you should according to The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization.

Pets usually have shorter lifespans than humans, but people don't always include their pets in their estate plans. If a pet owner doesn't make plans for his or her pet, the animal can be left homeless and end up in an animal shelter.

The Humane Society says that all too often, people erroneously assume that a long-ago verbal promise from a friend, relative or neighbor to provide a home for a pet will be sufficient years later. 

So, how can you ensure that your pet will be cared for? 

One option is to create a pet trust. While you can give directions in your will or trust to leave your pet to a caretaker, there is no guarantee that the caretaker will continue to care for your pet. A pet trust can provide a little more security for the pet because a third party -- the trustee -- is obligated to ensure the pet is cared for.  

With a pet trust, the trustee makes payments on a regular basis to your pet's caregiver and pays for your pet's needs as they come up. The following are some elements the trust should include:

  • Caretaker. The trust will need to name a caretaker who will be willing and able to care for your pet. The caretaker should be someone who is comfortable with your animal.
  • Care Instructions. The trust should include specific instructions on all aspects of the pet's care, including the brand of food, activities the pet enjoys, and the preferred veterinarian.
  • Funds. The amount of money necessary to fund the trust depends on the individual animal. Typically, you can leave the money to the pet trust in your will or trust. It should be what is deemed reasonable for the care of the pet. (See, "Queen of Mean Rules From the Grave, But $12 Million to Dog May Be Trouble.")

If you need guidance on how to incorporate your pet into your estate plan, give us a call at 818-292-8160 (Calabasas office) or 310-230-5686 (Beverly Hills office) or send us a message.

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