A Pet Trust is a valuable tool for planning for the care of your beloved furry (or scaly, bald, slimy, etc.) family members. There are, however, a great number of misconceptions about pet trusts and how they work:
Pet Trusts are just for really wealthy people aren't they?
Pet Trusts are NOT just for the very wealthy and their pets. Pet Trusts are NOT too expensive for the average pet owner. If you have a pet, you need a pet trust. Plain and simple. Pet Trusts are very simple arrangements that look after your beloved family member if something happens to you. Often they can be formed for a flat fee by a qualified attorney, and require a bare minimum of funds to be deposited.
It is actually very surprising that people, especially hunters, will spend thousands of dollars on a dog, then thousands more having the dog trained to hunt and retrieve, not to mention all of the thousands of dollars worth of gear needed for a hunting dog, but will fail to provide for that dog in case something happens to them because they just can't spare the funds. We put so much time, money, and effort into creating the ultimate hunting partner and demand so much from them in return, only to leave their fate to chance if we go before them. We owe them more than that.
Why can't I just put my pet in my will?
Wills are complicated instruments. Amending your will every time a new pet comes into your life or passes away is time consuming and often expensive. Additionally, multiple changes to your will can open your heirs to lawsuits based on which version is considered the intended will. Additionally, wills must go through a process called probate, where the inheritance is decided and divided amongst those named in your will. Your pet may not see any benefit from your will for months or even years, all the while someone will need to be taking care of him.
Do I have to have a lot of money to establish a trust for my pet?
Not at all. When we look at setting up your pet trust, we'll look at the yearly maintenance required for your pet. Food, vet bills, on-going training, etc. will all come into play. We'll set up a fund that reflects the anticipated life span of your pet (erring on the side of a long and happy life) and come up with a number that best fits the needs of your individual animal. Obviously, this number will vary based on the kind of pet you have.
Who do I name to take care of my pet?
This question is tough for your attorney to answer. Usually, a close relative or neighbor will be the chosen caretaker. In the case of hunting dogs or working stock like horses, the answer may be the breeder or trainer from whom you purchased the animal. This will also ensure your loved one gets to keep doing what they love and were trained to do in the first place.
Will a pet trust affect my will, trust funds for my kinds or grandkids, or other estate documents?
A pet trust will not affect your other estate planning documents unless you want it to. A pet trust can be set up entirely independent of the other plans you have.
What happens to the money in the trust if my pet passes away before it runs out?
Naming a benefactor in case your pet passes is crucial. If there are remaining funds after the pet passes away, you can name who those funds should be distributed to. Commonly, these extra funds are given to a pet-specific charity in you or your pet's name as a charitable gift. If your pet passes away before you do, the funds will revert back to you.