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Pet Trust Funds Give Peace of Mind

by Jeff Dailey
Pet Trust Funds

Pet Trust Funds Give Peace of Mind
Pet Trust FundsLosing a pet to injury, illness or even just old age is never easy for the owner, but have you ever thought about the reverse? What happens to your pets if you are suddenly unable to care for them or if you pass away? Pet Trust Funds Give Peace of Mind
Pets have become integral and beloved members for millions of families. Unfortunately, many dedicated owners fail to consider what might happen to their pets if they are suddenly unable to care for them.
Historically, this was never much of a concern. Pets have always been considered “property” by state and national governments, so when people die, their possessions, along with the animals they owned, were disposed of as directed by their wills or by the probate court handling the estate.
In today’s society though, pets are thought of as much more than property. Although they still don’t have a different legal standing, most people will agree their pets should be handled differently than their car, furniture or other material items. It’s a sad fact that many senior citizens who might benefit from the companionship of a pet actually avoid bringing an animal home over concerns of care should the pet survive them. But it’s only been in recent years that true strides have been accomplished.
The first problem to overcome was that of the legal hurdle that “property cannot legally own property.” This means that the animal (property) cannot receive money (more property) in a will for its continued care. In a similar manner, a pet cannot be named a beneficiary of a trust. But, in the 1990s, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws changed the Uniform Probate Code to actually permit pet trusts. To date, the majority of U.S. states allow an owner to create a trust for their animals.
The next and probably bigger issue is to educate pet owners about their options. Failing to consider what to do with your pet in the event you are unable to care for it could lead to your dog, cat or other pet ending up in a shelter or with a new pet owner. While these situations could work out just fine, some relatives or individuals may not be willing or able to provide proper care. In addition, the pet itself may not adjust well to the new environment, leading to behavior issues or even early euthanasia.
Pet trusts actually provide many benefits. First, trusts are valid even while the owner is still alive, even if he or she is disabled or incapacitated. This simple fact allows the pet’s care to continue without the necessity of going through probate. Leaving money to your pet in a will might provide some resources, but the amount is subject to interpretation by the courts.
In addition, if the owner needs to move to an assisted care facility or nursing home, a pet trust is valuable in helping to keep the pet and owner together. This alone is a powerful reason to consider setting up a trust for your beloved animal.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a pet trust is administered by a trustee (separate from the pet’s caretaker) who has a legal obligation to follow the guidelines set forth by the owner. You will want to make sure you have selected a willing and trusted person as a caretaker before the time for one is needed.
As with any legal matter, you should discuss the potential for creating a pet trust with your attorney.
Dr. Darren Woodson has practiced veterinary medicine for 30 years. Email questions to dwoodson@valleyvetpet.com.

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