My Australian Shepherd, Motley, just celebrated this third birthday, and it got me to thinking what have a done to provide for him if something happens to me?

For a lot of us, a beloved pet is considered an important part of the family. Indeed, my wife and I always say we have a family of seven – three kids and two dogs. We take great care of our pets to ensure they receive the love, attention, and services they need. Just as you have thought carefully about how best to protect your family through estate planning, you can do the same for your pet. Similar to the considerations involved with selecting guardians for children, do not assume that your pets will be cared for the way you want if you are unable. A trust can be established to take care of your dog, cat, or other animal when you are no longer able to do so yourself. Pets are considered property and, as such, cannot be left money or property directly.

A trust is an entity that is established to receive and hold money and property for the benefit of designated beneficiaries, which can be people, pets, organizations or other entities. A pet trust in particular allows you to leave money for the care of your dog, cat, or other animal. You can appoint someone to take care of your furry companion, and provide specific instructions for how you want your pet to be taken care of. In California, pet trusts last for the lifetime of each pet who benefits from the trust.

A testamentary trust is another alternative that can provide for your pet. Through a statement in your will indicating that you are leaving money or property “in trust” to your pet, you create a testamentary trust. However, a testamentary trust might not specifically name the trustee or caregiver for one’s pets, so the probate court would be responsible for appointing these individuals.

In addition to the above-mentioned trusts, a pet protection agreement is a less formal option for providing for your pets. This type of agreement goes into effect both upon the pet owner’s incapacity and death, and can be quickly and inexpensively created.

If you decide to create a pet trust, take note of these additional considerations:
• Pet trusts make the most sense for animals with longer life spans, such as horses and birds;
• There is usually not much need to leave an excessive amount of money;
• Appoint different individuals to serve as the trustee and caregiver and ensure they are willing to take on their respective responsibilities;
• Name a successor beneficiary of the pet trust funds remaining after your pet dies

Establishing a trust or agreement for the protection of your pet can give you the peace of mind that your adored pet will be taken care of when you can no longer do so yourself. We welcome all animal lovers to contact us at Snyder Law, PC to discuss more custom options that work best for your pets and family.

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