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When Your Pets Outlive You

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March 28, 2021

When Your Pets Outlive You

We have all heard the story of the little old lady that willed her fortune to her dog…or maybe it was her six cats. The first reaction is, this lady must be crazy. And what lawyer let her write her Will doing this. But the reality is, she was probably being true to her heart. We tend to form deep bonds with our pets. And as we get older, they can become an important companion. Providing needed love and mental well being. So it is not hard to understand the desire to end life with the peace of mind that comes from taking care of that beloved pet.

Not planning for a pet's care puts the life of the animal in jeopardy. The main concern is finding the pet at the person's death and no arrangements have been made. Many cases find the pet ending up in a shelter. Maybe even euthanized, if it is an older pet. Without a plan, abandonment of the animal becomes common.

Estate planning has adapted over the years to include setting up a Pet Trust. As of 2018, all 50 states have enacted Pet Trust laws. The typical estate plan allows you to have a strategy for managing your assets after you die. Including what will happen to your property, investments and other assets. Adding in a Pet Trust to your estate plan, makes sure you have cash or other assets designated to pay for the pet's care and expenses. Just like any trust, you will name a trustee that will manage the funds and take care of paying for Vet check-ups, Grooming Costs, Feeding, boarding and other needs. The trust can also specify end of life care for the pet. Including burial or cremation. Most Pet Trusts will remain in place until the pet's death. However some states have put a cap on how long the trust can last. Say, 21 years.

In reading this, you probably have in your mind, dogs or cats. But there is really no limit to the type of pets that you can set up the trust for. Small, large, even a horse.

The first question that comes up is: how much money is needed to fund it? Costs can vary depending on age and health. A good source to go to is your veterinarian. They should be able to guide you on your specific pet's future needs. Important things to ask include: the cost of vaccines, checkups, medications for heartworm or other basic preventions. Then you can put your personal desires on the list: grooming, pet sitting, etc. Including money for pet insurance might be a good way to keep the unknown cost down. It is important to document, your calculations, so any heirs to your estate don't challenge that the trust is too high.

Selecting the pet's caregiver is crucial at this point. Make sure you discuss it with them. And there is nothing wrong with including money in the trust to pay the caregiver for their time. Again, just make sure it is documented to avoid heirs crying foul.

Make sure the trust details what happens to any remaining funds when the pet passes away. You could have it go to the beneficiaries of your Will or donate it to charity. And while you may only be thinking about providing for your pet when you are gone, don't forget to plan the trust to start if you become incapacitated.

Talk with both your estate attorney and/or financial advisor to make sure everything is in order for that most loved creature in your live…your pet.

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About the author

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Van Pappas

Vice President, Private CFO®

Van Pappas, CFP® - Van is a native of Atlanta. He holds his undergraduate degree in Finance with an emphasis in Real Estate. As a planner for 15 years, he earned his CFP designation from Kaplan University. He is currently the Chairman and founder of the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Downtown Development Authority for the City of Chamblee. In 2012, he noticed the value of helping the X-Y Generations and decided to merge his practice with oXYGen Financial.

Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.

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