Q: Why would I need a Pet Trust? That’s for crazy people who hate their kids, isn’t it?
A: Not necessarily! Many of our clients have both pets and children, and love them both. Pets cannot care for themselves, nor can they choose where they go after their owner passes away. They are completely dependent upon a caretaker. We have clients who find themselves in need of a pet trust because:
- They don’t have any friends or family members who are open to taking on a pet.
- They own a pet with significant longevity or expensive medical needs.
- They own a type of pet that would be hard to adopt in a shelter, such as a black cat, or a large or very active animal, or a dog that is not well socialized.
A pet trust can be a loving and practical gift to the caretaker, as well. Pets are expensive to own, especially if they need training, daily exercise, or have special needs for their diet or medication. A gift of money to care for the pet will alleviate any burden on the caretaker while ensuring that the pet receives whatever they need for everyone to be happy with the new placement.
Q: Why not just give some money with the pet?
A: This is certainly an option for clients who do not wish the administration of a trust for their pet. In most cases, the person who receives the pet and the gift will use that money to help transition the pet into their new home – ie: purchasing supplies, hiring a trainer, or pet-proofing the home. However, pets end up in shelters for many reasons that are unforeseen when the pet is first welcomed into the home. Someone may develop an allergy or lose a job and have to move to an apartment that does not allow pets. As the pet ages, their medical needs might outstrip the owner’s ability to handle the pet, either financially or practically. Only a pet trust provides ongoing funds that transfer with the pet when unforeseen changes force a pet owner to consider rehoming. Just as we encourage our clients to consider “What Ifs?” related to their finances and relationships, it is worth considering whether your pet needs additional planning to keep them safe and happy.
Q: How much money should I put in a pet trust?
A: You can calculate the amount by considering what you typically spend on the pet in a year, and multiplying that by the pet’s expected lifetime. You may be surprised by just how much it really is!
Q: What happens to money left in the pet trust after my pet dies?
A: You can decide how this money is spent. It can return to your estate and be distributed to your beneficiaries just like the rest of the assets, or you can choose to give it as a gift to the Caretaker, the Trustee, or a charity.
Q: What if the person I name as Caretaker decides they can’t take my pet, even with the pet trust funds to help them?
A: It is a good idea to make clear in the pet trust what should happen to the pet in this eventuality. You can start by naming a backup Caretaker in the trust so that the Trustee knows who they should turn to next. Some organizations, such as the Denver Dumb Friends’ League Guardianship Program, will take the pet and arrange for its adoption free of charge or in exchange for a contribution. Our pet trust language specifies that the Trustee should try to locate a good home for the pet before resorting to placing the pet in a shelter, and then choose a shelter that will not euthanize the pet if it if not adopted by a certain date. Pet trusts are particularly helpful in this situation, where someone who was not expecting to receive a pet finds themselves called upon to step up and provide the pet a loving home.
Q: Can the caretaker be paid for their efforts?
A: Yes, the law allows you to specify that the Caretaker can be compensated for taking care of the pet. This comes out of the pet trust funds, so be sure to appropriate enough for both the pet and the caretaker.
If you have pets to plan for, please contact us to discuss your goals and concerns.