Have you ever considered what would happen to your pets if something were to happen to you? Most people have an idea of how they intend to divvy up their wealth and possessions after they’re gone but often overlook their four-legged family members. You might assume that someone would step up to look after your pets if you can’t, but unfortunately, the reality is that without formal provisions in your estate plan for your pets, they could end up in the wrong hands or a shelter.
Fortunately, you don’t have to leave the care of your beloved pets up to chance. A pet trust is a legal entity that allows you to specify who should care for your animal companions if you pass away or can no longer care for them yourself due to an injury or illness. Here’s everything you need to know about providing for your pets in your estate plan.
How does a pet trust work?
You can create a pet trust as a separate document or part of an existing trust you have in your estate plan. In your pet trust, you will name who you want to be the caretaker for your pet and a trustee who will disburse funds to your caretaker to pay for your pet’s care. In some cases, the caretaker and trustee may be the same person. Typically, you’ll want the funds in your trust to cover the average expenses of care for your pet for the remainder of their lifetime, including:
- Routine veterinary care
- Food and boarding costs
- Grooming expenses
- Emergency veterinary visits
- Burial or cremation arrangements
In Texas, a pet trust will terminate upon the death of the animal or death of the last surviving animal covered by the trust.
What to consider when drafting your pet trust
The instructions you include for your pet’s care in your pet trust can be as simple or detailed as you wish. If your pet requires a specific amount of daily exercise, medications, or certain food brands, you can ensure your caretaker provides the same level of care as you would for your animals. Be sure to choose a caretaker who wants the job and who can handle the situation.
When outlining your pet trust, you should also consider:
- The life expectancy of your pets
- Your pet’s current standard of living
- Who will act as successor caregivers
- The likelihood of your pet developing severe health issues
- What will happen to any leftover funds in the trust
If you consider your pet family, establishing a pet trust will ensure they receive the love and care you want for them if you can no longer provide it.