If you have concerns about predeceasing your pet, there is a viable estate planning option in the form of a pet trust. Clearly, this would be relevant to senior citizens, and younger pet owners may want to have a plan in place as a purely precautionary measure.
The first order of business is to designate a caretaker that will actually care for the pet on a day-to-day basis if it becomes necessary. Ideally, this will be someone that has an existing relationship with your pet.
If there is no one that fits the bill, you can make an effort to connect the pet and the would-be caretaker so they become familiar with one another. The person could take a dog for occasional walks, and they could pet sit while you are out of town for the weekend.
This may sound like an overstatement of the obvious, but you should definitely discuss your intentions with the person that you would like to serve as the caretaker. Even if you are sure that they would be willing to step in, you should confirm this in no uncertain terms.
You should also designate an alternate caretaker that will be willing to step into the role if the primary choice is unable to care for the pet for some reason.
When you are drawing up the trust declaration, you should leave specific instructions with regard to the way you want the pet to be cared for on every level. In this manner, the pet’s routine will not be disrupted, and this will minimize their sense of loss.
You have to name a trustee when you are establishing your pet trust. This is a person that will administer the trust, and you have a system of checks and balances in place when you have a trustee and a caretaker.
The trustee would have a fiduciary duty to make sure that the pet is provided for in accordance with your wishes, and there would be no conflicts of interest if they are not the caretaker. Any adult that is willing to assume the role can act as the trustee of a pet trust.
However, you may not know anyone that is a suitable candidate. If this is the case, you can utilize a professional fiduciary. Trust companies and the trust departments of banks provide trustee services, and this can be the right choice under some circumstances.
You could give the trustee the latitude to designate a replacement caretaker if the original caretaker can no longer fill the role. And as we have stated, you can formally designate an alternate caretaker when you are drawing up the trust.
The amount of funding that will be necessary should be calculated to the best of your ability, but there is margin for error. You can name a successor beneficiary when you create the trust. This individual or entity will inherit anything that is left in the trust after the death of the pet.
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