People love their pets. A lot. I get it, believe me. My cat has me wrapped around her paw and my dogs are my best friends. I also know that a lot of people worry about what will happen to their pets in the event they should become disabled or when they die. These people want their pets to have good lives and be well taken care of, but can’t even begin to imagine how to make sure that occurs. Or they think that only people like Joan Rivers and Leona Helmsey can afford to leave money aside for their pets. That’s simply not true. Some people believe that a will is enough to take care of their pets. I know I did before I learned about pet trusts. Here’s why a will is not a good choice: Pets are tangible, personal property. They cannot be beneficiaries. This means you cannot leave anything to your pets directly. Instead, you’re merely naming someone to take care of your pet (s). The problem with this is that there is literally no way to make sure that person actually does take care of your pets. Why? A will does not leave funds for the care of your pets and also does not leave instructions for the care of your pets.This might not seem like such a big deal. However, there are so many horror stories out there about people simply dropping pets off at shelters or taking the money that you leave them and not actually using it for the care of the pets. A will does not take into account disability planning. This means, if you should become disabled and need a caretaker, there will be no provisions for how your pet should be cared for and even whether your pet gets to stay in your home. Many elderly clients depend on their pets for companionship and protection (okay, maybe not in the case of cats). If you don’t indicate what you want to happen to your pet in this case, anything could happen. Your pet could end up in a shelter.
Here’s why a trust is a good choice:
You can leave specified funds to a caregiver (beneficiary) for the care of your pet. This ensures that your pet will be taken care of by someone you trust and that this person will have the funds available for the sole purpose of caring for your pet. You can also leave very specific standards for the care of your pet. For example, my cat needs a lot of attention. I can specify in my living trust (which can easily be part of my estate planning documents), that her future caregiver must spend at least 8 hours a day with her. Or if you know your dog might need surgery at some point, you’ll know that the funds will be available for that. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Pet trusts are extremely important. For everyone, not just the filthy rich.