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Recently, my dear friend and wonderful financial planner, Rob, sent me an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about how many people often overlook pets in their estate planning. These days, pets are a real part of the family and as such, their care going forward needs to be considered in your planning. Too often, pets wind up in shelters or even worse, euthanized because people fail to designate care for their pets after they pass away. In fact, a member of my family adopted a cute middle aged beagle who wound up in animal control because her owner passed away without considering her dog.
There are a number of ways you can set up your estate so your pet(s) are taken care of if you pass away. First, and cheapest, is to set up what is called an “honorary trust”, a simple plan that leaves lump sums to friends or family members who agree to care for your pet. This is basically what we currently have in place for Yankee. It’s specified in our will who Yankee goes to (primary and backup) and the amount of money that person will get. The only drawback to this is you have to believe that your chosen beneficiary will keep your pet and use the money for his/her care.
If that thought bothers you, you can set up more elaborate trusts. There are two types of pet trusts – a traditional trust, and a living trust. A traditional trust requires you to designate a trustee who pays money to your beneficiary as long as the beneficiary cares for your pet. A living trust is much more elaborate and expensive to set up. It takes place immediately and also cares for your pet if you are disabled and unable to do so.
One other point to consider – it’s important to leave behind a set of instructions regarding how you would like your dog to be cared for – items such as type of food, feeding times, routine, exercise, things your pets enjoys, grooming, medical care, and so on. And don’t forget veterinary information. Keep this document with your planning paperwork.
So, my question to you is “Do you have anything in place to take care of your pet in the event something happens to you?” If not, please do your beloved pet a favor and take care of this immediately.