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Making a pet trust part of your estate plan

Having a furry friend really does make a difference in your life. You don't need studies or statistics to tell you that you feel calmer, your heart beats slower and your blood pressure evens out when you are sitting on the sofa with your dog or cat in your lap or at your feet.

Whether you have always loved animals or this particular one grew on you, the fact is that your companion depends on you for everything. Unfortunately, many pets outlive their owners, and shelters are full of animals that pet owners thought they had safely passed along to someone in their wills. This is why more animal parents are adding pet trusts to their estate plans.

What does a pet trust do?

A pet trust us an efficient way to provide for the needs of your beloved friend after you are gone. While you may think it is enough to name someone in your will to inherit your animal, the law does not require your beneficiary to accept the animal or to follow any instructions you leave about how to use any money you include for your animal's care.

With a trust, on the other hand, a trustee is legally bound to ensure that your designated caretaker follows your instructions and to manage the funds you assign for your pet's care, including:

  • The cost of feeding and housing the animal
  • Routine veterinary visits
  • The cost of flea medications, vaccinations and other items of health maintenance
  • Grooming expenses
  • Funds for any veterinary emergencies
  • The costs associated with the end of your pet's life

You can be as specific or general as you wish with your instructions, including how you want your pet's caretaker to handle the end of your pet's life and what to do with your pet's remains. Your trust can also indicate what should happen to any funds left after your pet passes away, such as leaving it to the pet's caretaker or donating it to a charity.

Of course, a pet trust is not limited to dogs and cats. You may own an exotic bird, in which case a pet trust may be critical element to your estate plan. Birds and some other animals may outlive their owners by decades, so it is important to accurately estimate the amount of money your trust will need and to fund the trust adequately. A California attorney can assist you with this and with every other aspect of creating a trust that will ensure the loving care of your companion.

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