In the United States, we sure love our pets! In fact, we own more pets than almost any other country in the world. Moreover, our pets are typically considered to be part of the family. We take them with us on vacation, spent a small fortune on their healthcare, and go out of our way to make sure they are comfortable and well cared for at all times. If you own a pet, this all probably sounds familiar. Given the fact that you consider your pet to be part of the family, has it occurred to you to include your pet in your estate plan? If not, it may be time to talk to your Long Island estate planning attorney about how to include your pet in your plan.
Pet Facts and Figures in the U.S.
To say that Americans love their animals would be an understatement. Consider some of the following facts and figures relating to pet ownership in the U.S.:
- Pet ownership in the U.S. has almost tripled in the past four decades
- Americans own 180 million dogs and cats
- Almost half of all American households have at least one dog or cat
- Americans also own 16 million birds
- Americans own 11 million reptiles
- 18 million small pets, such as hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs.
- American homes also have 140 million freshwater fish and 10 million salt water fish.
What Will Happen to Your Pet If Something Happens to You?
Have you ever taken the time to consider what will happen to your pet if something happens to you, such as your death or incapacity? Sadly, over half a million dogs alone end up in shelters every year because something happened to their “owner” and they somehow got forgotten in the aftermath. If you don’t want that to happen to your pet, you need to plan ahead.
Planning Options for Your Pet
Planning ahead for your pet can take many forms; however, some are clearly preferable to others. People often count on something as simple as the promise of a friend or a verbal agreement to care for their pet in their absence. Even if your intended caregiver has the best of intentions when the promise or agreement is made, a virtually endless number of things could cause that promise or agreement to go unfulfilled. Your caregiver could move away from the area, face financial hardship, or even become incapacitated or die in the interim. Then what happens to your pet? “Gifting” your pet to someone in your Last Will and Testament doesn’t really do much more than a verbal agreement because it does not legally bind anyone to take care of your pet nor does it provide the funds for your pet’s care. One solution is to create a pet trust.
Can Your Long Island Estate Planning Attorney Help You Create a Pet Trust?
A pet trust operates the same way as any other trust, except that your pet is the named beneficiary of the trust. You are then able to appoint a Trustee who will oversee the administration of the trust. A pet trust offers a number of advantages over other options, including:
- Legal transfer of ownership – though you may view your pet this way, your pet is actually your property according to the law. Therefore, your pet’s ownership needs to be legally transferred to your chosen caregiver when you die or become incapacitated. A trust can help ensure that this occurs.
- Management of funds – you will appoint a Trustee, along with a successor Trustee, who will manage and distribute the funds designated by you to be used for your pet’s care and maintenance. By using a pet trust, you know that the money you leave behind will actually be used to take care of your pet and not for any other purpose.
- Trust terms – as the creator of the trust you have the ability to create all of the trust terms. You can use those terms to dictate every detail of your pet’s care if you wish to do so. You can require your pet to treat with a specific veterinarian, eat a specific dog food, or even go to a specific groomer.
Please take a moment to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns relating to creating a pet trust, contact the experienced Long Island estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.