Protecting Your Pet: Should You Create a Trust?



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Although it sounds like an extravagant legal measure that a Park Avenue “lady who lunches” might do for her prized show dog, creating a trust for your pet may save them in the long run. Unfortunately, heartbreaking stories of well-loved pets ending up in the shelter due to the death of their owners are de rigueur on pages such as Pets on Death Row. If you’re unsure if your pet will receive care from a friend or family member in the event of your death, setting up a pet trust may be a smart measure for you to take.

What is a Pet Trust?
To put it simply, a pet trust allows you to control how your pet will be cared for (and who will care for your pet) in the event of your death. A pet trust will allow you to set aside money to fund your pet’s needs as well as name designated guardians for your pet. Typically, pet owners will set up these trusts for their beloved animals at the same time they set up their general will. Because pet trusts are a relatively new phenomenon, many states are still working on passing laws that allow these trusts to be established.

How Do I Set Up a Trust for My Pet?
A pet trust can be set up in the same manner you set up your standard will – in fact, it’s a smart idea to handle this at the same time. When you create this document, you’ll be asked to select both a trustee as well as a beneficiary. The trustee will be in charge of handling the financial aspect of your pet trust, whereas the beneficiary will be responsible for the day-to-day care of your pet. Although one individual can act as both trustee and beneficiary, it’s a smart idea to choose two separate individuals for these roles in order to create a system of checks and balances.

When selecting your trustee and beneficiary, it’s important to select individuals that you trust implicitly, as unfortunately, fraud does happen. Furthermore, it’s a smart idea to name a few back-up options in case your first choice is unable to care for your pet for whatever reason.

I Can’t Afford to Set Up a Trust! What are my Options?
If you’re unable to afford the legal fees associated with establishing a pet trust, you still have options! Websites such as LegalZoom offer low-cost Pet Protection Agreements which will allow you to legally name a guardian for your pet.

Finally, no matter what your age, it’s always smart to discuss pet guardianship with your friends or family. Much like one might establish “godparents” for their children, why not buddy up with a pet-loving friend or family member to establish continuation of care upon death? Establishing continuation of care for your beloved pets will ensure they’ll be well-cared for and keep them out of shelter.

Do you have a trust set up for your pets or do you have an agreement set up with a friend or family member? Share with us in the comments below!

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What do you think?