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A Simple Solution to Plan for Your Family Pet’s Future



Whether you care for a loyal dachshund, a coterie of cats or a bevy of bunnies, you probably devote a lot of attention to your pets. You work hard to care for them and treat them with kindness. But have you given serious thought about what would happen to them if you became incapacitated or passed on?

Attaining peace of mind requires more than just getting the “big stuff” in order. Yes, you need to establish a plan for your children and other beneficiaries. You want to preserve your legacy and minimize taxes and legal hardships for those you leave behind. But to the degree you attend to minor issues, such as the future of your pets, is the degree to which you can feel truly liberated to live creatively and openly.

One simple solution is to establish what’s known as a “pet trust.” This document defines your wishes and instructions for how to care for your pet if you become incapacitated or if you die. The trust authorizes a caretaker to take custody of and provide for day-to-day pet needs. It appoints a trustee to manage the money you leave for your pet’s care. The trust also provides for a contingent caretaker and trustee in case your primary choices are not able or willing to serve. Finally, it can dovetail nicely with your charitable plans. After funding your pet’s needs, the trust can pass leftover money to a charity of your choice.

You may think “pet planning” is over the top and you might ask why go through a formal process to care for your pet’s future. After all, you might expect relatives or friends to step up after an emergency or unexpected event. Plus, the idea of setting up a special fund just for your pet might strike some as unnecessary.

The truth, however, is that a lack of planning can have consequences. The Humane Society estimates that half a million pets get sent to shelters every year because their owners die or become incapacitated. Many other pets live on the street or suffer because their new caregivers don’t have insight into their care, medical history or nutritional needs. Worst of all, some pets are euthanized simply because there’s no plan in place.

Keep the following ideas in mind: ● Invest thought into appointing a caregiver for your pet. ● Choose alternate caregivers as well, in the event that your chosen person can’t handle the job for whatever reason. ● Write down all instructions, specifications and commitments. Remember the old Chinese saying: the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory. ● Plan to set aside funds for the pet’s care. For instance, you can name the pet trust as a life insurance beneficiary. When we discuss pet planning with you, we’ll show you how and when assets can be funded into your pet trust. ● Don’t go overboard. If you leave too much money to a pet – particularly at the expense of another worthy beneficiary, such as a child – the arrangement could be contested.

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