What happens when your pet outlives you?

What happens when your pet outlives you? – Authored by:  Anisha D. Rutkowski

Estate Planning that involves providing financial resources for a pet may sound slightly odd at first to someone who does not own a pet. But for those of us who consider our pets a part of the family, the thought of leaving them behind after we pass away, without any control over how they will be cared for, is unsettling. And harsh as it may be, pets are considered nothing more than “property” included in a deceased individual’s estate. For these reasons, there are planning tools, specifically “Pet Trusts,” legally recognized in Michigan, that allow you to provide instructions and resources for your pet’s care in the event that you pass away or are no longer able to care for your pet.

A pet trust allows pet owners to provide specific information and instructions necessary for the care of the pet. The trust may cover topics such as feeding, medicines, vaccinations, special health conditions, medical history, personality traits, grooming, and end-of-life euthanasia and burial or cremation preferences. Ideally, you should update this document periodically as both you and your pet age and circumstances change.

The obvious next question becomes who will provide this specified care for your pet? You should choose an individual who will serve as both a loving and capable caretaker, as well as have the ability to responsibly handle financial resources you have provided for the pet’s care. If your chosen caretaker is not the ideal choice for handling finances, then you should consider choosing another individual to serve as the Trustee, while the caretaker maintains physical control of the pet.

When funding the pet trust, you will have to consider the pet’s anticipated life expectancy and accompanying expenses, making sure that there are sufficient resources for carrying out the care of your pet as you have instructed. Of course, there may be funds remaining after your pet passes away, and you should provide for this situation by naming a remainder beneficiary of those funds. Designating a charity as a remainder beneficiary may be an ideal option, as this eliminates any concern of an individual wanting the pet’s life shortened in order to gain access to the remainder funds.

Contrary to what the stigma may be, the use of pet trusts is not just for the extremely wealthy and is increasingly common today. For more information on pet trusts, contact us at 248.792.9193.

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