June 15, 2022
Diane S. Kotkin
If you know me, I love animals. At a very young age and much to my mother’s dismay, I would smuggle stray cats and dogs into our basement so they could have food and a warm place to stay. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would be a proponent of Pet Trusts.
I have many clients and friends who have pets. When discussing estate planning, I often ask them what would happen to their pet if they become disabled or die. Almost 100% of the time, there is no plan; just a hope that someone will take care of them.
Enter the Pet Trust.
Legally, pets are classified as property but to the owner, they are best friends, companions and family. Several states, including Maryland, recognize Pet Trusts as legally enforceable arrangements between a pet owner and caretaker. At its most basic, a Pet Trust gives instructions to a named caretaker on how your pet should be cared for after our death. That caretaker will be responsible for your pet’s daily care. So it is not a financial strain on the pet caregiver, you can allocate a certain amount of funds for him or her to use for vet bills, toys, food and any other needs your pet has. Any funds remaining after the pet’s death can be redistributed to your human beneficiaries or a charity of your choosing.
Who would want to utilize Pet Trusts?
Pet owners who have pets with longer lifespans such as parrots, macaws, turtles and snakes may want to utilize a Pet Trust. If you have a pet that may be predisposed to health issues such as hip dysplasia or respiratory issues, it would be prudent to create trust for that pet’s benefit so its costs could be covered.
Who should I name as caretaker?
Choosing a person to care for your animals is an important task. It should be someone who has the time and experience to care for them. Also, make sure the person you appoint has the housing needed to care for them. The worst thing that can happen is if you appoint a caretaker and they cannot take the animal because their landlord doesn’t allow pets. Just like choosing a Trustee for a child, it is advisable that you speak with the person you wish to appoint to make sure they are able to fulfill your wishes for the pet.
Estate planning is an important undertaking to assure your loved ones are protected – especially your furry family members. Having a Pet Trust will ensure your pet will have the resources and proper care for their lifetime. Without this, you are leaving too much to chance. For questions about Pet Trusts or any other aspect of estate planning, contact Diane Kotkin at DKotkin@RKWLawGroup.com or (240) 220-2410.