Pet trust and other options available for pets in estate planning, P.1

For many people, family pets are not just pets, but family. As such, they deserve to be part of a family estate plan. Even for those who have a less dignified view of pets, however, should consider making them part of their estate planning. One doesn't have to be rich to make such planning worthwhile. There are a number of ways to provide for pets once one is gone.

Here we'll look at some of the more common options for caring for a pet, including pet trusts.

At present, almost every state has enacted laws permitting pets to be beneficiaries of trust funds. In forming a pet trust, one will select a trustee to manage the money one funds the trust with. The trustee will be responsible for dispersing funds and/or property to the caregiver who will use them to care for the pet in the manner specified in the trust.

The difference between a pet trust and leaving money and instruction for pet care in a will is that it takes much longer to read and process a will, and risks the animal's life if nobody takes steps to care for them. If nobody ends up caring for the pet, he or she may end up in a shelter or euthanized.

A number of details can be specified in a pet trust, such as the type of care the animal should receive, what he or she eats, hw often he or she needs to be walked, how often to take the pet to the vet, and so on. The trust should also specify an alternate guardian.

Pet trusts are probably the best option for truly ensuring a pet will be cared for after their owner's death, but because of their expense, owners do choose other options. In our next post, we'll take a look at several other options.

Source: MarketWatch, "Estate planning to care for your pets," Catey Hill, December 25, 2012

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