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How to Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plan

Anyone with a pet knows that love doesn’t discriminate by species. Four-legged members of our family are just as beloved as their two-legged counterparts, so there is just as much reason to include them in your estate planning. Just as it is vital to ensure your children are cared for in the event of your passing, so too it is essential to make sure your pets are afforded the quality of life you want and they deserve. A pet trust achieves just this and is, therefore, something all pet owners should consider.

What a Pet Trust Can do For Your Furry Loved One

A pet trust is a legal arrangement that outlines how you would like your pet or pets to be cared for after you die. Pet trusts stipulate that upon the grantor’s death or disability, a trustee will hold assets “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets, but your pet itself cannot be named the beneficiary of the trust. Why?  Because under Texas law, pets are considered “personal property”.  However, you could name the caregiver of your choice to be the beneficiary.  This, of course, means you will set aside cash in the trust for your caregiver to use to cover basic needs, medical costs, and capricious desires (like new squeaky toys to devour)—but the power of a pet trust does not stop there. In addition to providing funds, a pet trust also allows you to outline the special conditions your furry loved one needs to live its best life.

Like every person, every pet is different, so as you plan ahead you will want to consider the following questions:

  • Does your pet have unique care requirements that necessitate special planning? These might include health conditions, personality quirks, or dietary needs.
  • Where will your pet be most comfortable living? At your home, with a loved one, or at a sanctuary?
  • Who will take responsibility for daily care and the administration of assets left for this purpose? (These need not be the same person).
  • What financial resources will you leave for your pet’s care?

Pet owners who invest the time, energy, and resources into ensuring their furry loved ones are properly taken care of will naturally want to know how they can be sure their wishes will be respected. This is where it helps to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney who can explain the unique nature of pet trust legislation.

How Do You Know Your Trust Will Work as Planned?

Under Texas law, there are two different types of pet trusts:  i) traditional pet trusts; and ii) statutory pet trusts.  An attorney familiar with these types of trusts can advise you as their differences and which one is a better option for you and your pets to make sure your trust will work as planned.  With this said, you should always trust the person you name as the caregiver and provide for alternative caregiver beneficiaries.  And, while your trustee could also be your beneficiary, in order to make sure that your pet is, in fact, taken care of properly, it is recommended that your trustee be someone else than the caregiver beneficiary – this would ensure that the trustee could oversee the care of the pet and take action, if need be.  And, in some instances, you may even want an “enforcer” (or even a panel of people) named in the trust to ensure the proper care of your pet.

While all of this may sound very serious, it is no more so than the need to care for your loved ones…no matter the number of legs they walk on!

To learn more about including a pet trust in your estate planning, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith either by calling (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form on our website.

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