Many people don’t want to think about what happens when they pass away or become incapacitated. However, this is something we need to think about and plan for. We need to have legal documents in place to help our family and pets in case something happens to us. You might have a Will or trust set up for your family but what about your pets? Have you ever thought about setting up a pet trust?
WHAT IS A PET TRUST?
A pet trust is a personal trust document. It is a legal document much like a Will. It has to be enforced. The person that initiates the trust is the grantor. The grantor dictates specific instructions regarding the care of the pets. The most important thing is appointing a trustee. A trustee is a person or entity that is obligated to carry out the instructions of the pet trust.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE GRANTOR
The grantor of a pet trust needs to put down specific instructions in the pet trust document. This directs the trustee on how to care for the pet. Some things to address would be:
What food does the pet eat?
What type of environment is the pet accustomed to?
How much exercise does the pet need?
Which vet should the pet be taken to and how often?
What are your wishes for the vaccinations of your pets?
How often should the trustee visit the pet if the pet is in another person’s care?
What happens when the pet dies?
DECIDING ON THE TRUSTEE TO CARRY OUT YOUR WISHES
The trustee needs to be someone that you can trust with your beloved pet. This can be a great friend, dependable relative, or rescue organization that you trust. Talk to the person or entity about taking on the responsibility of being trustee before you appoint them in the pet trust document.
FUNDING THE TRUST
Once you have your instructions down you will need funding for the pet trust. You can use an investment, money market, or savings account. How much you leave to your pet trust depends on the size of the account and your number of pets. You may set the pet trust up as the sole beneficiary or leave the trust a percentage of an account. It is best to get a tax ID number for your pet trust. This can be obtained in the United States from the Internal Revenue Service. You can do this or ask your attorney to take care of it.
WE HAD FIVE DOGS AND I NEEDED TO PREPARE FOR THEIR FUTURE.
Years ago when I discovered pet trusts I immediately wanted to set one up. I talked to my attorney and she gave me instructions as to what she would need. I thought long and hard about what I wanted for my pets and wrote it all down. I have a rescue organization that I’ve worked with for 12 years so I set them up as trustee. As far as funding, I decided to fund it from one of my IRA’s.
According to the ASPCA pet trusts are legal in all states of the U.S. and the District of Columbia except one. Currently, Minnesota is the only state that doesn’t have a pet trust law. If you live in Minnesota, contact your state representative and ask them about this. If you live in another country check with your representatives to see if there are pet trust laws in force.
THE SAD TRUTH OF PETS LEFT BEHIND
When I used to help with the local municipal animal shelter I’d see cage cards stating “Owner died”. Behind the bars, a sad and terrified dog sat there not understanding why it was there. This broke my heart. Usually, if these dogs weren’t adopted they were euthanized.
Our pets are like our children. They deserve to be well cared for after we’re gone. A pet trust is ideal to ensure that your pets will be taken care of when you’re gone. So I’ll ask you again, have you ever thought of setting up a pet trust?