Pet Trusts

Who will take care of your pets?

By Danny Meeks, Esq.

If you die without making advanced and sufficient plans for your pets, they could end up in a shelter and eventually be euthanized.

That's a harsh thought, but according to the Humane Society of the United States, some 6 to 8 million cats and dogs will enter a shelter this year and nearly half of that number, or 3 to 6 million, will be euthanized. What can you do to prevent this from happening to your pet?

The good news is that as many as 25 percent of families with a pet have provided for their animals through wills or trusts, said Sara Amundson, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "People really consider pets as members of their family," she said.

A will is a legal document that contains your instructions and wishes as to how to distribute your assets and property after your death. The person who writes a will is called a testator. The will can also appoint individual’s that can serve, if necessary, as a guardian for your minor children and nominate a personal representative to carry out the instructions of your will. Each state has minimal legal requirements that must be followed for a will to be valid and accepted by the courts. Nevertheless, generally, a competent adult must make the will, it must be in writing and signed by the testator and witnessed by a least two other individuals and a notary.

You can include a clause for your pets in your will with the appropriate language, but you need to be fully aware of the possible limitations and drawbacks. In some circumstances, the preparation of a pet trust is more appropriate in your estate planning for your pet.

Today the majorities of states accept and recognize some form of a pet trust. Pet trusts, which had their beginnings in the late 1980’s, have become widely accepted in recent years. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have specific Pet Trust statutes on their books and there are other forms of documentation that can be prepared to provide for your pets in those states without Pet Statutes. All that aside, you can make your wishes known for the physical and financial care of your pet should he or she survive you with a Pet Protection Legal Plan, a ready when needed pet estate plan.

When should you begin planning for your pet trust or the use of a will to determine your pet’s future care? Estate planning for your business, your family, and your pets are essential because none of us knows what tomorrow may bring. We make plans to try to minimize the uncertainty, reduce the stress, eliminate the chaos and ease the fear of sudden life changing events. Estate planning for your business, your family, and your pets should begin today.

Editor's Note: Danny E. Meek, Esq., resides in Naples with his wife, Connie, and their three-year-old King Charles Cocker Spaniel, Anna, pictured with Danny above. Anna spends much of her time chasing geckos and shadows of overhead birds.

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