In my previous article, I talked about what to take into consideration when you’re planning for your pet’s care, in the event of your incapacity or your death. This week, I’m going to give you the steps to take in creating a pet trust to provide for your companion animal, or animals, if you cannot be there.

A will is not enough

You might think that merely including a letter laying out the specifics of your pet’s care with your will is sufficient to provide care for your companion animals. However, you need to remember that the directions in your will won’t take effect until the estate is administered.

In the meantime, what happens to your pet? If there’s no provision for their immediate care, you may as well have just made an informal agreement, which is not enforceable.

Trusts lead to peace of mind

When you have money in a trust for your animals, it gives their future caretaker the ability to fund their needs in exactly the way you want them to. A trust is a legal arrangement that dictates how your pet, or pets, will be cared for if you pass away before they do.

Currently, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have pet trust laws. Michigan allows for pet trusts to be enforced throughout the lifetime of the pet.You can also name a contingent beneficiary, such as a child, family member, or charity, to receive any money left over in the trust after your pet passes away.

Name a trustee

While you should have a caregiver (or two!) listed, you should also hire a separate trustee to be responsible for administering pet-care funds. Giving the money to the caregiver in a lump sum is not the best way to make sure your pet has what it needs throughout its life, even if their caretaker is well-intentioned. And remember—you’ll want to provide money to pay the trustee for the work they’ll be doing to manage the trust.

Specifically identify your pet in the trust

You don’t want somebody running a scam to get the trust money that is meant for your pet. You can use detailed descriptions, photos, microchip numbers, and even DNA samples to make sure your pet, or pets, are easily identifiable by the trustee.

Provide REALLY detailed information about your pet’s care

Previously I recommended you make a complete plan for your pet’s care, and I want to emphasize that it’s important to go through every eventuality. That means more than just day to day care. You also should try to set money aside for major vet bills, end-of-life care, and cremation or burial. You should also have a plan for what to do with any remaining trust money when your pet passes.

Think creatively about funding

If you’re worried you don’t have that much cash on hand to put into the trust, remember that you probably have other assets to draw from, too. That could include life insurance policies, annuity contracts, savings accounts, or money gained from the sale of physical assets.

Drawing a blank on possible pet care issues? Unsure what assets can help fund your pet trust? As your personal family lawyer, we can help you figure out the answer to any questions you may have about building a trust for your pet.

This article is a service of Legacy Counsel PLC, a trusts and estates law firm in Saint Joseph, Michigan. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure that you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life and Legacy Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and become empowered to make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 269-932-4017 to schedule a Life and Legacy Planning Session.Mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

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