While it is easy to be dismissive of the idea of creating a pet trust – it’s not something to completely rule out. When it comes to our furry/feathered/hoofed family members – the law doesn’t distinguish between “pets” and “property” – which means that you may need do some extra planning when it comes to the care of your pets if you become unable to care for them or pass away.
The two attorneys at Clayton and Clayton are unfortunately currently experiencing the pitfalls of a lack of appropriate planning first-hand; James’ grandmother is in rehabilitative care, which has meant that our household has temporarily grown with the addition of a tiny Chihuahua named “Prissy.” While she has many adorable and lovable qualities – the sudden arrival of a strange dog has not been the most ideal situation for a family with a toddler, hectic and long work hours, and a busy travel schedule.
What it has done, however, is make us more aware about the importance of having a discussion with our clients about their wishes when it comes to the care of their beloved pets.
While a will is a valid place to establish where you want your pets to go – there are some benefits to using a trust over a will, such as:
• Incapacity: A trust can appoint a guardian for your pet in the event that you are medically incapacitated and cannot care for your animal or communicate your desires about where your pet should go. A will won’t be effective until after you pass away.
• Quick: A trust does not need to go through probate – and will therefore allow the pet to be immediately transferred to the guardian you choose, and allow for funds to immediately go towards the care of the pet. If you disburse funds to cover the costs of pet care through a will, they will not be available until after the will goes through probate – which can take years in some instances – leaving the kind people who took your pet in in a potentially financially stressful situation.
• Reliable: A trust will allow the disbursement of funds to be monitored – the person who takes your pet in can’t drop the pet off at the pound and use the money to take an elaborate vacation or renovate their kitchen.
• Choice: A trust will allow for any remaining funds left after your pet is cared for to go wherever you prefer – a local animal shelter, your family, etc.
If you want to talk about the options that are available for your pets in the event that you cannot care for them, feel free to give us a call or send us an email. We are happy to talk about it with you in more de“tail.”