Adopt-a-Dog Month - Love Them Today and
... Love Them Tomorrow with a Pet Trust
There are 3.3 million dogs housed in animal shelters each year. You can celebrate Adopt-a-Dog Month this October by adopting a homeless dog, providing it with a home, and gaining years of joy and companionship. My daughter is going to be shocked by the previous sentence (for the record, I never said she could not have a dog). But whether you are planning to adopt a new pet or already have one (or several), it is important not to forget to make arrangements for their care if something should happen to you.
Consider a Pet Trust
Although many pet owners consider their pets as members of their family, they often neglect to include their pets in their estate planning. Pet owners may assume that family will care for their pets if they become ill or pass away. But this can create a dilemma for family members who are unable to afford the costs of caring for another pet or who may not be animal lovers themselves. In the worst-case scenario, your beloved pet could end up in a shelter, where it could be euthanized if it is not adopted.
Making arrangements for your pet in your will may not be the best option, because it leaves the fate of your pet in limbo while your estate is probated—a process that could take several months. In addition, even if you name a caretaker in your will and give that person a gift intended to be used for your pet’s care, with a will, there is no way to guarantee that your wishes are ultimately carried out: The person you named could just take the money and give your pet away. Because your pet becomes the property of that person, the caretaker is free to make decisions about it that might be contrary to your wishes. Also, if the caretaker has any creditors or liabilities, the money you have provided for your pet’s care will be vulnerable to claims made by the caretaker’s creditors.
A pet trust will ensure that a caretaker of your choice is in place as soon as you are no longer able to care for your pet. In addition, the terms of the trust are binding, and the money you provide for your pet’s care must be disbursed and spent in the way you have designated in the trust—and cannot be reached by the caretaker’s creditors. The caretaker has a fiduciary obligation to take care of your pet in the way you spell out in the trust, and the trustee has a fiduciary obligation to make sure that the funds provided to the caretaker are used only for the purposes described in the trust. The trust could specify that