People who feel comfortable that they have tended to all of their estate-planning needs sometimes forget to make provisions for their companion animals. What will happen to Fido or Fluffy should you die before they do? Will a friend or relative step in and care for them or will they wind up in a shelter, heartbroken and confused, or be euthanized?
It's distressing to contemplate such a harsh future for a pet that has lovingly lived its life by your side. But take heart, as there is a way to make sure that your pet will be lovingly cared for even after you have left this earth.
Fund a pet trust
Taking the time now to draft and fund a trust for your companion animals can provide you with peace of mind that your pets' needs will be met. Your trust can specify conditions before death where the trust will take effect, e.g., should you become mentally or physically incapacitated.
Trust grantors (you) set aside a designated sum of money or other asset to provide for your pet's daily needs and medical care. You also name a designated caregiver for the animal. It's essential to discuss this first with the caregiver in order to assure that they've agreed to step in and take care of the pet.
It can be generic or quite specific
The language used in a pet trust can refer to your pet(s) by name or use a more generic form of reference. It's a good idea to use language that can include any non-specified pets that you may adopt or own in the future, as it's a sad fact that the short life spans of most companion animals preclude their outliving their owners in most circumstances.
Your pet trust can list the details of your pet's preferences for daily food, treats and exercise. You can state how frequently your pet should visit the vet and groomer and specify which professional to use for these services. You can even list your preference for the dog park or daycare the pets attend.
Provide funds for caregiver
A trust grantor can designate funds to compensate the caregiver for the attention and care they give to your pet. These payments can be disbursed on a preset schedule you create.
Limitations of the trust
Most pet trusts will be for the lifetime of the pet in question. At the end of your pet's life, there may still be some money in the pet trust, so you should determine what to do with these funds. You could leave it to the pet's caregiver or designate an animal charity as beneficiary of the funds.
Is a pet trust a good option for you and your companion animal? Your Cape Coral estate planning attorney can review your circumstances and offer a recommendation to you.