Introduction: Many of us have pets we adore and treat like members of the family. But how many of us have ever thought about what would happen to our pets if we were suddenly unable to care for them due to our death or illness? That’s why I asked Boca Raton attorney Melissa Haluska to write this guest blog (below) explaining how we can provide for pets and keep them safe when we’re no longer able to do so ourselves. Melissa practices in elder law and estate planning with The Siegel Law Group, P.A. in Boca Raton, Florida.
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What Happens to Fluffy? Pet Trusts: Estate Planning for Your Family Includes Planning for Your Pet
By: Melissa Haluska Esq., Attorney at The Siegel Law Group, P.A.
Have you ever thought about what will happen to Fluffy and Fido if they outlive you? Who will take care of them? Where will they go?
We make Estate Planning arrangements for our spouses, children and grandchildren, but what about our pets? After all, pets are family, too. And, sadly, they cannot advocate for themselves. That is why we have a responsibility as pet owners to ensure our fury children are taken care of.
Although we consider our pets as family, the law considers them property, just as a desk or chair. That is why you cannot leave money directly to your furry children.
It is crucial to not assume that your friends or family will want to care for your beloved companion in the event you are unable. Often times, family members do not want to be bothered with such responsibility.
Having a properly set up Pet Trust could make all the difference between your pet ending up in a shelter and possibly being euthanized or being taken care of by someone you trust to ensure that Fluffy is living out his or her life in a comfortable manner.
A Pet Trust is the ideal planning tool owing to the fact that it will take effect not only when you become deceased, but if and when you become too sick or disabled to tend to your pet’s care. Further, setting up a Pet Trust will skip probate – the long dreaded court process that can consume a large amount of time and wasted money.
How does a Pet Trust work? You will set out detailed instructions for the appointed Trustee (the person you want to manage and oversee your pet’s funds) and a Beneficiary or Care-Giver to take care of your pet. Moreover, you can list an alternate or back up Trustee and Care-Giver in case the original designations are unable to serve.
It is recommended to set a reasonable amount of funds aside, so the trust does not become a conflict for disgruntled relatives. Also, choosing a Trustee who is different than the pet Care-Giver, can offer a system of checks and balances. The more protection we can offer our pets, the better off they will be.
In addition, you as the Trustor, can list out any specific considerations for the well-being of your furry friends such as maintenance, vet and medical care, diet, exercise, toys, housing, grooming and boarding. You can be as specific as you want.
Setting up a Pet Trust is just one aspect of the estate plan you should have in place to give you and your loved ones peace of mind. After all, our pets are our best friends, companions, family members, so why treat them as anything less?