For much of your life, the biggest problem about having a pet would be its short lifespan. No matter how much you love your dog or cat, you know that their companionship will only last a fraction of your life expectancy. The dog that you buy when you are 40, for example, will likely not live to see your retirement.
However, as you grow older, the opposite starts to be a concern. The risk is there for your dog or cat to outlive you. How can you protect an animal that you love in your estate plan?
Leaving the pet to other people or assets to the pet won’t work
There is a popular plot device in comedy movies where an elderly, wealthy person leaves their entire estate to their dog or cat. Inevitably, their actual next-of-kin grows to resent the animal.
This exact situation can play out in real life if you try to leave your assets directly to an animal. The people who wanted to inherit may resent or abuse the animal to get what you left for the pet. If you leave the animal to a loved one as part of their inheritance, the pet becomes their possession, they could take it straight to the pound and have it adopted out to others or euthanized.
Creating a pet trust is really the only way to protect your pet against people mistreating it later.
How does a pet trust work?
When you create and fund a trust to provide for a companion animal, you can involve multiple people in the process. One person may serve as a trustee to oversee the assets and monitor the care the animal receives. Someone else can actually serve as the caretaker for the animal.
Both parties can receive some compensation for their services. The right language in your trust can ensure that your pet continues to receive companionship, the best food and medical care until it reaches the end of its natural life. A trust also allows you to then reallocate those assets when your pet does die to other people or causes that matter to you.
Adding the right documents to your estate plan can protect your vulnerable loved ones, including a pet.