Have you noticed more articles appearing about providing for pets in your estate plan?
It has been some time since Leona Helmsley died in 2007 and famously left $12 million in a trust to provide for "Trouble," her dog.
To my recollection that is still one of the most famous instances of a pet trust.
So, again, why the plethora of articles about pet trusts of late?
If you are asking me (actually, I am asking me), then I would say it is based on demographics.
With 10,000 baby boomers turning age 65 every single day, that means they may be thinking more about their mortality.
I have noticed that many of these retirees have acquired pets now that their children are busy with children of their own.
Accordingly, here is another recent article on pet trusts to share.
The article emphasizes that pet owners need to do their own due diligence to make sure new homes are arranged to care for their pets.
In addition, they need to make sure their is a written legal plan and funding to make sure all goes according to Hoyle.
Otherwise, after the pet owner's death, in the midst of grief and estate administration it is easy for pets to become an after thought at best and forgotten at worst.
Communication is key.
For example, the article recommends creating a wallet card detailing detailing how many pets you have and their location.
Better yet, this card also should contain contact information for your veterinarian, pet-sitter, and at least one trusted friend who is willing to care for your pets if something happens to you.
Did you know that legally pets are considered tangible personal property like your sofa?
Consequently, pets cannot inherit from you.
That is why you need a pet trust to hold funds for the care of your pet.
Then, after the pet dies, any remaining trust funds can be designated for a nonprofit.
Here are some practical pointers for setting up a pet trust:
- Consult with an estate planning attorney with experience in pet trusts, and make sure they are allowed in your state. Both Kansas and Missouri have Uniform Trust Codes authorizing pet trusts.
- Make sure your pet trust covers all pets together, instead of separate trusts for each pet.
- Provide detailed instructions regarding the type of care you want for your pet, such as requiring that the new caregiver provide regular veterinary care.
- Estimate how much money you need to set aside for the care of your pets, to include funds to administer the pet trust itself. You will want to "round up" when estimating to account for unexpected expenses.
- Select a beneficiary for any funds not used by the pet trust, like a pet charity.
If you want to do this and leave a trust for your pets, then I cannot emphasize too much the need to speak with an estate planning attorney experienced in establishing pet trusts.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: The (Raleigh, NC) News Observer (October 12, 2015) “Providing for your pets after you’re gone”