Q: I read your column on planning for your pet. Do people really leave money to their pets?
A: No. People do not leave money to their pets. But that doesn’t mean that pets shouldn’t be included in an owner’s estate plan.
In the column that you are referring too, I tried to remind people that it’s important to give some thought as to what will happen to their pets in the event of their deaths. In most cases, that’s enough, but not always. The truth is planning for a pet, although not common, isn’t all that unusual.
For most of us, planning for a pet may not be an issue. Let’s face it, cats and dogs don’t get to stay with us for very long. Sure, some of them can live more than 15 years, but that isn’t what most attorneys would describe as long term.
However, there are some pets that require long-term planning. Some parrots can live longer than 75 years and a lot of other large pet birds can reach 40 and 50 years. If you have a pet that is likely to outlive you, it’s important to think about what will happen to them after your death and provide for them accordingly.
If you have a pet that is likely to outlive you, deciding who will take care of them after your death is only part of the solution. You may also want to consider providing for the pet’s support.
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Now, you obviously can’t leave money to Polly the parrot. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t provide for her care. One thing that you could do is establish a pet trust in your estate plan.
A pet trust is exactly what it sounds like: a trust established for the benefit and care of a pet. A pet trust can provide funds for the pet’s medical care or to help pay for food and things like grooming. Pet trusts are an excellent way to help offset the costs associated with pet ownership. Remember that pets can be expensive, and providing a few bucks for their care can go a long way.
After the pet’s death, you can direct where the remaining trust goes. The remaining money can go to your loved ones or maybe a non-profit providing care to animals. There are a lot of animal rescue organizations out there and I guarantee every one of them could use financial support.
I’m not suggesting that planning for a pet is as important as planning for a spouse or child, but it is important.
Pets bring so much to our lives, why not return the favor by making sure that they are taken care of after your passing? It’s the least we can do for our furry, feathery and scaly friends.