Estate planning: Taking care of your pet after injury or death

By law, pets are classified as property, but you don't think of your pet that way. Your pet is your companion, a friend and a confidant. If you couldn't be there, you'd want to have someone treat your pet like family, not like an asset.

You can protect your pet in the event that you cannot take care of him or her on your own. If you are severely injured or killed, your pet deserves the right care. A pet trust can help you make sure your pet is safe and loved.

Why would you want to create a trust for your pet?

A pet trust is a legal document. It's a binding document that makes sure your pet receives the care needed when you pass away or are in a position where you are unable to provide the care it needs.

A pet trust identifies a trustee who then ensures that the pet is taken care of. The trustee makes sure the individual follows your orders. That means that if your pet trust states that your dog needs to be walked twice daily and fed organic food, the trustee can enforce those requests by law.

Why wouldn't you use a will instead of a trust to protect your pet?

Wills don't always adequately protect a pet. They are intended to disburse property, but the instructions in the will aren't enforceable. For example, if you will your cat to your sister, she now owns it. You can suggest that she takes it to the vet twice a year, but it's up to her whether or not she follows those instructions.

Wills also don't allow you to disburse funds over the course of the pet's life. So, if you planned to give your sister $100 a month to care for your pet for the remainder of its life, a will would only allow you to give her all the funds at once instead of in small increments.

Your attorney can talk to you more about the differences between wills and trusts when it comes to the safety and care of your pet. Your pet has been there for you, and the right legal documents can make sure your pet is cared for when you are no longer able to take care of it yourself.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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