Critter Corner: Things to Keep in Mind When Planning for Your Pet

Dear Angel,
I have five children: two humans, two dogs and a cat. That’s right, I consider my pets as my children. I plan to meet with Mr. Farr to plan for them all. I’m just wondering: what are some things to keep in mind when planning for pets?
Thanks for you help!
Mai Furbabies
Dear Mai,
As you already know, it’s important to plan ahead for both your human children and fur babies. Pets like me and the other Critter Corner staff members are so grateful that there are pet lovers like you and our humans in the world!
For many of us, pets inhabit both our homes and our hearts. But unless you factor them into your estate plan, your beloved poodle or tabby cat may face an uncertain future if something were to happen to you.
Owning a pet can be costly, so you want to make sure that expenses such as food and vet fees are covered for the rest of their lives (or nine lives, as the case may be).
Protect What’s Precious With a Pet Trust
Some pet owners find peace of mind by creating trusts for their pets. A pet trust is a relatively simple way to plan for your beloved animal’s future, ensuring they always get the care they need—even when you’re not around to provide it. Pet trusts are most common with animals that live a long time, such as birds and horses. Here are the five things to keep in mind when setting up a pet trust:
1) Choose a beneficiary
As the primary caregiver, the beneficiary has to be someone you trust—possibly a close family member who your pet already knows and who loves it as much as you do.
Ask this potential caregiver if they are okay being named beneficiary. Being responsible for another life is a gift that no one should accept lightly. Give them time to think it over. You’ll need to be clear about what the role entails. Some animals can be left alone in an apartment all day, while others need a long walk—morning, noon and night. Is your critter noisy? Does it have complex dietary needs? Give an accurate picture of what 24/7 pet ownership looks like.
2) Assign a trustee
The great thing about trusts is that they come with built-in checks and balances. In addition to your chosen beneficiary, you can name a separate person as trustee. This person will be in charge of managing the funds you set aside, making sure the caregiver spends them on your pet, etc.
3) Describe your pet—and what they need
Spend some time writing detailed instructions for how you want your pet to be cared for. This should include things like what brand of pet food to buy and whether they prefer to sleep in their own bed alone or in the company of a human caretaker.
Also consider your pet’s belongings—their favorite blanket or toy need to be mentioned in the trust so they don’t end up getting misplaced or thrown out with the trash during the disbursement of your property.
4) Provide medical and end-of-life details
Make sure your pet’s registration papers and/or medical records are in order and included with the trust. Think about whether you’d like your pet to be buried or cremated, and be sure to specify your choice in the trust.
5) Earmark adequate funds
Every animal is different, and you’ll need to take your pet’s unique needs into account before earmarking a dollar amount in your trust.
Write down the amount you spend on your pet in a year, plus emergency money to cover medical bills or any new expenses your caregiver might incur (for example, if they work full-time, they might need to hire a dog walker).
Specify how the funds should be distributed to the caregiver.
The Simpler Option
Instead of the complexities of a pet trust, most people simply set up regular payments from their main trust, or a one-time gift to your designated pet caretaker, to offset the pet care expenses that the caretaker will incur.
Plan Ahead for the Pets You Love
Animals teach us to live in the moment—that’s what makes them so delightful, so enchanting. They have no concept of the future. Luckily, their human protectors can plan ahead for them.
Hope this helps,
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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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