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Should I Set up a Pet Trust?

For many Americans, pets are members of the family. However, many pet parents aren’t aware they can actually set up a pet trust in order to ensure their animals are cared for if they pass away. The ASPCA estimates that roughly 5 to 7 million pets enter shelters every year and the majority of these animals never find a home. For some, knowing their furry companions will be cared for provides a lot of comfort. If this sounds like you, a pet trust could be the solution.

By Kristin McFarland

Pet trusts

What is a pet trust? 

A pet trust is a type of trust fund designed to pay for the care of your animal after you pass away, as some of your assets will go to fund the pet trust. The trustee managing your pet trust will make payments every year to the person taking care of your pets to cover the expenses. You can also leave instructions for your trustee to check in on your pets during the year to make sure they’re being properly cared for. 

Setting up a pet trust 

To set up a pet trust, you need to hire an estate attorney to draw up the document that establishes the trust. This document should clearly list how much you want to pay per year to take care of your animals as well as instructions for what to do with any money that survives your pets. For example, you could donate the remaining funds to charity.

One tip – be cautious about overfunding your pet trust. A pet trust is only supposed to cover the expenses of taking care of your animals. If you put too much money in your trust, there’s a chance a judge could overturn it. A good way to approximate the right amount is to add up a year’s worth of food, high vet costs, other supplies, and average boarding rates (all increased by inflation) and multiplied by your pet’s maximum possible life expectancy. By documenting your cost assumptions, it will help validate your wishes and voice your intentions when you’re no longer able to. 

Other considerations 

A pet trust is a good way to protect your animals after you’re gone, however, many people have difficulty naming a reliable and willing caregiver that will survive the pets. Just imagine if your mother asked you to care for her beloved cat and two dogs when she passes. While you’d probably want to afford her this comfort – what if you already have two dogs of your own?

When naming a suitable caregiver isn’t feasible, you can explore other options, such as a pet retirement home.

As you may expect, trusts cost a fair amount of money to setup – about $1,600 to $3,000. Also, not all states allow pet trusts so this might not be an option depending on your location. Be sure to also consider your life stage as you weigh the options. Such a trust is likely less necessary for a young family just starting out, but could be a great option for an aging widow who recently adopted a companion puppy.

In all, if the ongoing care of your beloved companion is at the top of your planning priorities, you may want to seriously consider a pet trust. Of course pet-planning isn’t for everyone, but for some it can be a legitimate concern. Knowing the options available to you can help ease the burden on your family and give you more control over how your pets will be cared for in the future.

Contact us to learn more about pet trusts or other estate planning techniques.

The Darrow Company is a nationally recognized wealth management firm in Boston and Concord, MA as well as Los Angeles. Since 1987, we have provided comprehensive asset management and financial planning services to individuals and families. The Darrow Company serves a diverse client base with particular focus on investment management and financial planning services for physicians and medical professionals, high tech and biotech professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners in the Greater Boston area.

As a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), our approach to wealth management is based on a partnership with clients – built on trust, personalized advice, and a long-term view. Through these relationships, we’ve worked to help clients across generations preserve and grow their wealth.

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