Ensure your pets are cared for after you’re gonePublished 11:11am Friday, March 22, 2013
If you want to set up a pet trust, talk to an estate-planning attorney, preferably one who has experience with pet trusts. Or, you can work with a company like Peace of Mind Pet Trust (peaceofmindpettrust.com) or Trusted Pet Partners (trustedpetpartners.com). Some factors you’ll need to consider before setting up a pet trust include:
• The trustee and caretaker: Most pet trusts designate both a trustee to manage the money and a caretaker to handle the day-to-day care of the pet. The trustee can make sure the caregiver is doing what they’re supposed to do. It’s also a good idea to name an alternate trustee and caregiver in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.
• Caregiving details: With a traditional trust, you can specify the things you want your pets to receive like their favorite foods, how often they should be taken to the vet, their burial arrangements, etc.
• Funding the trust: You can set aside money from your estate to cover the costs, or if you’re short on funds, another option is to buy or use an existing life insurance policy and name the trustee as the beneficiary.
Another legal option to consider is a “pet protection agreement,” which is much less complex than a formal pet trust. This allows you to name a guardian to take care of your pets, and gives you the ability to leave funds to care for them. You can make a pet protection agreement online at legalzoom.com (800-962-7490) for $39.
If, however, you don’t want to create a legal tool, you should make informal arrangements by asking a trusted friend or relative to take care of your pets if something happens to you. In addition, you could set up a separate bank account to cover expenses and name the caretaker as the beneficiary.
Or, if you don’t have anyone who would be willing to take care of your pets after you’re gone, you can make arrangements to leave it to a rescue, humane society, pet care program or other animal welfare group. Many of these organizations find new homes for pets or offer lifetime care, but may require a fee or donation. Talk to your veterinarian about options in your area.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.