Kathy L. McNair, Esq.
"National Love Your Pet Day": Including your pet in your estate plan.
When you love your pet, you want to make sure that he or she will be provided for if anything happens to you. This is especially important if you are single or widowed. Unfortunately, the odds of adoption, especially for an older pet are less than 50%. If you are concerned about your pet's future, the best option is to establish a pet trust. Pet trusts aren't just for the rich. The average pet trust has $20,000 in it.
You cannot leave money in your will directly to your pet. However, Massachusetts law allows you to create a trust for the benefit of your pet. The purpose of a pet trust is to ensure that your pet's needs are met for the rest of his or her life. However, a pet trust is very different from other trusts, because the beneficiary of the trust, your pet, cannot make his wishes known or let someone know if he is not being properly cared for. Therefore, you will need to carefully choose trustworthy people to serve in different roles to make sure that your pet's needs are met, specifically:
Trustee: The trustee of your pet trust manages the money in the trust and makes sure that distributions are made for the benefit of your pet, according to your wishes. The trustee also ensures that the specific terms of the trust are enforced. The trustee should be authorized to pay for all of the pets needs and to pay an appropriate caretaker. The trustee can be an attorney, a financial institution, or anyone that you trust to ensure that your pet's needs will be met. The trustee should check in on your pet on a regular basis to make sure that he or she has a good qualify of life. Ideally, the trustee should be someone other than the person that you have designated as the caregiver.
Caregiver: When you can no longer care for your pet, where will your pet live? Who will be the primary caretaker of your pet? When possible, you should choose someone who knows and loves your pet. What happens when you don't have anyone that is suitable? Ask your veterinarian, family members, and pet-sitters about either becoming your pet’s designated caregiver or for any ideas. You may also look at online pet-sitting services such as www. rover.com to begin testing out and interviewing potential caregivers. You cannot just assume that your friends or family will care for your pet. Your trust should provide reasonable compensation for the caregiver and for all of your pet's expenses.
Monitor: A monitor provides another set of eyes to make sure that your pet is treated well and that the trustee and the caretaker are acting in the best interest of your pet. Ideally, you should choose a monitor that knows your pet and also knows about caring for animals. Your veterinarian may be an excellent choice to serve as the monitor.
When planning for your pet's future, it is important to put together an information packet providing important details about your pet, including the pet's medical history, needs, and preferences. You will also want to provide information about your wishes for end of life decision making for your pet.
You will need to determine how much money should go to the pet trust to care for your pet. It is important to consider the life expectancy of your pet, the number of pets that you have, and the cost of caregiving and medical expenses. If you don't have enough money now to to leave to a pet trust, you may want to consider purchasing a life insurance policy. You can designate your pet trust as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. You will also need to choose a remainder beneficiary to inherit any money remaining in the trust upon your pet's death.
If you would rather not have a pet trust, you can choose who will inherit your pet in your will. You can leave this person money that you want them to use to to take care of your pet. However, he or she will not be under any legal obligation to use the money for your pet and if they choose to use it for any other reason, nothing can be done. Pet Trusts provide the greatest peace of mind that the money that you leave will be used to care for your pet.
Do you have a beloved pet that you wish to provide for his or her future? We are ready to help plan for your estate and your pet. Please call our office at 617-489-5900 or schedule a brief free consultation or by clicking: https://seniorsolutions.as.me/FreeConsult
Senior Solutions, Attorneys at Law, is an Estate Planning and Elder Law firm, serving the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area, since 2001. We are ready to help you with Medicaid Planning, Estate Planning, Probate, Guardianship & Conservatorships, Special Needs Trusts, and Fiduciary Services. We are here to help.
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Can designate who you want to inherit your pet
Important to talk with them first to make sure that they are ready to take on such a big commitment