Usually, when people think about trusts and estate plans, they think about leaving money for their spouse, children, family members, friends, or even their favorite charity. But, for many of us, there are other important family members under our care that will also need help if something happens to us—we are talking about one’s pets. They are vulnerable without us, and as a responsible pet owner it’s our job to make sure they are properly cared for as well. But how can you do this? Well, fortunately, there is now a legal way to make sure your pet is cared for no matter what happens: the pet trust.
What is a pet trust?
A pet trust is a legal document that enables you to leave money to care for one or more of your pets. Like a regular trust, a pet trust requires you to name someone to be in charge of it. This person will make sure the money is spent for the proper care of your pet. And, luckily, it (almost) doesn’t matter where you live because every state—except Minnesota—has enacted laws to formally recognize pet trusts.
How does it work?
The person who creates the trust is called the grantor, and the person in charge of the trust making sure your wishes are carried out and your pet cared for is called the trustee. In order for the trust to be valid, it has to be created for an animal that is alive during your lifetime. The trust ends when the animal dies, as it can’t be set up to continue caring for other animals, such as your pet’s offspring or relatives.
You also have to make sure that your wishes and the needs of your pet are fully and clearly spelled out in your trust. For example, if your pet only eats one type of food or requires medication, you have to make sure that all of this is included in your trust. It’s also important to include detailed explanations of your pet’s standard of living, as well as what should happen at the end of your pet’s life. Being as specific as possible will make carrying out your wishes that much easier. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced estate planning attorney who can help make sure your pet will be properly cared for no matter what happens.
Name a caretaker
In addition to providing financial security for the care and maintenance of your pet, you also need to make sure you name someone who is available, willing, and able to physically care for your pet. This person is called the caretaker and is usually a different person from the trustee. Make sure you choose someone you can trust and who is up for the responsibility. This means having the proper conversations and asking the right questions before officially selecting who gets custody of your pets.
Speak with an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney.
Thinking about death and incapacity is never easy, but making sure your beloved pets will be properly cared for no matter what will make you feel much more at ease. As with any element of your estate plan, it’s essential to speak with an experienced and trusted attorney who can help make sure no stone is left unturned. At the Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill , we know how important it is for our clients to know they are in good hands. If you need help with your estate plans and pet trusts, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!