The majority of American households have some type of pet, and dogs and cats enhance the lives of their owners in many ways. If you own a pet as part of a family and you pass away, the rest of the family will provide the care that the pet needs.
However, everyone is not in this position. Pet ownership is rewarding for single people as well, and there is no built-in caretaker to step up and care for the pet under these circumstances.
In spite of the fact pets have shorter lifespans than humans, you never know what the future holds. People pass away unexpectedly every day due to accidents and catastrophic illnesses, so you should make sure that your pet is provided for if the unthinkable takes place.
You cannot leave money to a pet in a will because animals cannot own property. However, you can establish a pet trust for the benefit of a dog, cat, or some other type of animal.
The first order of business will be to identify someone that is ready, willing, and able to act as the caretaker if it becomes necessary. You should discuss the matter with the person that you want to designate, and if they agree, you should also seek approval from an alternate.
When you are drawing up the trust declaration, you name a trustee to act as the administrator. They would be in charge of the asset distributions, and their actions would be dictated by the terms that you set forth when you establish the trust.
Technically, you can name the trustee as the caretaker if you choose to do so, but this is less than ideal. There can be conflicts of interest, and there is a system of checks and balances in place when you have a trustee and a separate caretaker.
You can be very specific with regard to the way you want the pet to be cared for after your passing when you are creating the trust. The trustee would have a fiduciary duty to make sure that your instructions are carried out the letter.
With regard to the funding, you do not have to be concerned about assets being left in the trust after the pet’s death. You can name a beneficiary, and they would inherit anything that remains in the trust after the pet crosses the mythical rainbow bridge.
Elder law is one of our areas of specialization, so we are sensitive to the issues that impact senior citizens. Loneliness is definitely a problem, and social isolation can lead to depression, which is a serious mental health condition.
A dog or a cat is not going to replace a lost spouse, sibling, or a longtime friend, but pet ownership can definitely make a difference. Experts have found that there are tangible physical and mental health benefits that go along with pet ownership for lonely seniors.
There are older folks that fully understand this, but they are reluctant to obtain pets because they have longevity concerns. This is a responsible way to look at the matter, but a pet trust can enable a senior citizen to enjoy pet ownership in a responsible manner.
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