When most people hear about estate planning for pets, they think about Leona Helmsley and her little dog, Trouble. Trouble was the beneficiary of a $12 million trust fund established by Helmsley, which was later reduced to $2 million following a court battle. However, remember your pets in your estate plan is not just for the rich and famous.
With more pets in American households than perhaps ever before, and many pet owners considering their pets to be part of the family, estate planning for pets is becoming more common. The reason is simple: just like any estate plan, it is a matter of planning for what will happen if you are gone.
Planning for pets can include answers to any of the following questions:
Who will take your pets?
How will you ensure your pet is properly cared for and comforted in its final years?
How will the caretaker pay for veterinary expenses?
Will the same person managing the funds also care for the pet?
There are a number of options for pet owners for including their pets in their estate plan. The simplest option would be to add a specific bequest in your will that says who should have the pet when you are gone. This could include a monetary gift directly to the new caretaker to offset costs. This option would generally not add any additional cost to the overall estate plan.
The more complex option would be to establish a pet trust. Under a pet trust, the owner can designate a caretaker as well as a trustee to manage funds. More elaborate instructions regarding the pet's care can be included in the pet trust to ensure your wishes are followed. You can also name a beneficiary to receive any remaining assets of the trust after the pet is deceased.
With so many households having pets now, it makes sense to realistically consider the possibility that your pets will outlive you and take the steps necessary to ensure your pet can continue to live a happy life if you are not there.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (507) 288-5567.
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