July 24, 2013   Estate Planning

Alternatives to Pet Trusts

pet trusts When Leona Helmsley died in 2007, she left a whopping $12 million to her dog, Trouble. Although most people do not leave their pets such astounding amounts in their estate plans, many consider their pets to be family members, and want to provide for them accordingly.
Providing for your pet in an estate plan is tricky because, unlike a human relative, you cannot simply leave money outright to your pet. Therefore, many pet owners have turned to pet trusts. Through a pet trust, a pet owner can set aside a specified amount of money for his or her pet. The pet owner can draft a trust document that explains when and how money is to be withdrawn from the trust and spent on the pet.
Although pet trusts are very popular, there are many alternatives that may be a better fit for your family. One alternative is sending your pet to a pet sanctuary. A pet sanctuary is a type of animal shelter that offers lifetime care for pets after their owners have died. If you believe this alternative is right for your pet, research and visit local pet sanctuaries. Once you have found a good fit, update your will to bequest your pet, as well as adequate funds for your pet’s care, to the animal sanctuary. Be sure to condition the gift on the understanding that the sanctuary will keep the pet for life.
Another alternative to the pet trust is a simple provision in your will that identifies a caregiver and arranges funding for your pet. In this provision, you can specify any care preferences you have for your pet. Bear in mind that the executor of your estate plan has no responsibility to ensure that the designated caregiver is spending the funds appropriately.
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