THURSDAY, 07 JULY 2011 19:16 – BY GENE L. OSOFSKY, ESQ.
Special to the Times
Q: My two dogs are my constant companions and provide me a great deal of comfort, but I worry about what might happen to them should something happen to me. Is there something I can do to provide for their care when I can no longer do so?
A: Yes there is, and you are not alone in expressing your concerns. Our furry companions provide great comfort to us, and it’s natural to want to ensure their continued welfare.
One technique is to create a Pet Trust. As its name implies, a Pet Trust is a trust created for the specific purpose of caring for companion animals. The essential elements are: the naming of a trustee to manage the money you place into the trust, a caretaker to take physical care of your pets, a non-profit backup to take the pets if your designated caretaker is not able to do so, and detailed instructions on how to care for your pets.
Since January 2009, Pet Trusts have become enforceable in California in a court of law. And, most other states have similar laws.
The Pet Trust can be created in your will, but since the will is not effective until it is admitted to probate, which usually only occurs many weeks after death, it is better to create a pet trust during your lifetime. It can be created as either a stand-alone trust or as a separate part of your Living Trust.
The Pet Trust should be funded with enough money to cover the continued care of your companions for the duration of their anticipated lifetimes, including items such as anticipated veterinary fees and reasonable fees to their caregiver.
The amount of funding need not necessarily be large: for smaller animals such as dogs and cats, a few thousand dollars may be sufficient, while more would likely be required for larger animals such as horses.
But your death is not the only concern. What if you became ill and can no longer care for your animal companions?
To address this concern, you may also wish to include suitable powers in your Durable Power Of Attorney authorizing your agent to take charge of your pets if you become incapacitated and either furnish pet care themselves or hire a suitable caregiver to do so at your expense.
Likewise, you should give your agent specific instructions to bring your pets to visit you if feasible even if you’re not living in your own home, so that you and your pets can maintain your bond.
Your estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a suitable Pet Trust as part of your estate plan. Taking this extra step to provide for your companion animals can bring you great peace of mind and the comfort of knowing they will be cared for when you can no longer do so yourself.
Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. For more information, visit his website at www.LawyerForSeniors.com.
Posted: Just One More Pet
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