How Can I Take Care of My Pet After I Am Gone?
The bond between you and your pet is personal and unique. You cherish your pets as close friends, and they become part of the family very quickly. In the unfortunate event that you as a pet guardian become incapacitated, ill or pass away, you want to be certain that your pet’s needs are well taken care of. Often, the best and most comprehensive way to make sure that your pet’s needs will be met is to establish a pet trust as part of your estate plan. Even if you trust a friend or family member to care for your dog, cat, or other pet, having a pet trust can give you peace of mind knowing that financial constraints will not affect the care your pet receives.
Pet Wills v. Pet Trusts: What Is the Difference?
You may think that adding instructions for the care of your pet in your will is adequate protection for your dog, cat, or other pets. However, a will has certain limitations in the protection that it provides to animals. For instance, a will is only an instruction to the court as to how you want your assets divided. A judge is not always obligated to honor the wishes expressed in a will. Also, other potential heirs sometimes challenge wills. When this occurs, the care of your pet may be left undecided for an indefinite period.
There is another important consideration with a will. A will only comes into effect when you pass away. If an injury or disease leaves you incapacitated, then a will does not allow you to include instructions for the care of your pet. Therefore, if you would like to be sure that your pet will be looked after, then you should consider a pet trust. A trust is more flexible and allows you to set conditions for a variety of circumstances.
What Are the Advantages of Pet Trusts in Estate Planning?
Pet trusts offer a much greater level of protection for your pet’s interests than a will alone. Pet trusts allow you to be very specific in regard to what type of care you wish your pet to receive. In a trust agreement, you may specify who you want to take care of the pet, and how much of your estate you wish the designated pet guardian to receive and when. When a trust is established, you may specify what type of veterinary care you wish your pet to receive. You can even specify what type of food you wish for your pet.
A trust also allows provisions for multiple pets. If you have two dogs or cats that are strongly bonded, for example, then you can state in the trust that these pets are not to be separated. The trust will stay in effect until the last pet covered under the terms of the trust passes away.
Pet trusts also allow you to direct what becomes of your pet upon his or her death. If you want your pet buried in a pet cemetery, then you can include those instructions in the trust document. A trust will allow for the care of your pet even if others should seek to challenge your estate. The trust document and its provisions will be in effect even if some issues in your estate are still working their way through the courts.
Pet Trusts FAQs
It is legal in Massachusetts to set up a trust for the benefit of a pet. A pet trust is a legally enforceable fiduciary arrangement that provides for the care and maintenance of one or more pets in the event of the owner’s disability or death. It allows the owner to provide instructions for pet care and to direct the management and disbursements of trust funds on the pet’s behalf. It may be created during lifetime or by provision in a will. If the trustee is not the one appointed by the trust to care for the pet, a separate caretaker or “pet guardian” may be appointed. In addition, a separate “trust protector” may also be appointed as an additional check to ensure that the trust purposes are carried out.