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Madison Wisconsin Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Trust for Fluffy or Fido?

Why Every Pet Parent Needs to Consider a Pet Trust Today

Estate planning is about protecting what’s important to you. Although much of the traditional estate planning conversations focus on surviving spouses, children, and grandchildren, many pet parents wonder about what could happen to their “furry children” after their death or if they become incapacitated and unable to care for the pets.

A pet trust is something that can be easily incorporated into a new or existing estate plan to provide a strategy to care for your pets. Remember, estate planning is about protecting what’s important to you. So, even if you anticipate outliving your pets, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Trusts are superior to wills as they can bypass the lengthy probate process, which can significantly delay financial support for the animal. In addition, a will cannot protect and care for a pet in the event of their owner’s incapacity.

How a Pet Trust Works

Although they can be set up as standalone trusts, most pet trusts are incorporated into your overall estate plan. First, you determine an amount of money you want to leave for the care of your pet. When the pet trust becomes active (upon your death or incapacity) and while your pet is alive, the money will be managed by a trustee for your pet’s benefit. Second, you decide on a caretaker who will have custody and responsibility for the care of your pet. Lastly, after your pet’s death, the trust will terminate and any money that’s left will be distributed to the remainder beneficiaries you have chosen.

What a Pet Trust Avoids

It can be chaotic for your pets if you are incapacitated or deceased without a plan. With the shuffle of so many other tasks, a pet can be overlooked, abandoned, or even euthanized. A pet trust provides a legal tool to ensure that your beloved dog, cat, or companion animal is not left somewhere or euthanized merely because you are not able to provide care. Proactively including a pet trust is especially important when you have family members that may be unable or unwilling to care for your beloved pets.

The Three Easy Decisions You Will Make

  • The selection of the remainder beneficiaries. These beneficiaries will receive the assets that remain, if any, after the pet has passed away. Some people leave the remaining assets to a favorite charity, whereas others have whatever’s left pour into the children’s or grandchildren’s trust. The law is flexible, and we can tailor the plan to match your goals.
  • The selection of your pet’s caretaker. You can think of this role as similar to the guardian of minor children. This will be the person who cares for your pet if you are no longer able to do so. You can leave detailed instructions or general recommendations for your pet’s care, whichever works best for your pet’s situation. The trustee will be authorized to distribute money to the caretaker for supplies, vet visits, vaccinations, medications, toys, or whatever else you specify in the agreement. You can even have some amount set aside for compensation for the caretaker if you wish.
  • The amount you want to set aside. Some people estimate the expected cost of caring for their pet over the pet’s expected lifespan and leave that amount, plus a little margin for safety. With this approach, the goal is to provide for the care of the pet only. Others want to use the pet trust as a method for caring for their pet, but with an eventual charitable goal. Many of these people will allocate a large sum of money with an expectation that there will be money left over upon the pet’s passing. Determining how much to set aside is really about what you are trying to achieve. We can help you come up with the right number. Moreover, since these plans are fully changeable, you can always update the amount as your and your pet’s circumstances change.

Planning for the Future

You might be thinking that you will outlive your pets, so there’s no reason to plan. But, what if you don’t? The entire purpose of estate planning is to ensure that you have left your wishes known and fully protected your whole family – including your furry, four-legged children. Give us a call today at Wilson Law Group so we can work with you to protect what’s important to you.


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With Offices in Madison, WI and Evansville, WI, the attorneys at the Wilson Law Group assist clients with Estate & Business Planning, Probate & Trust Administration, Elder Law and Medicaid Planning throughout Southern Wisconsin including Verona, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Cross Plains, Oregon, Black Earth, Janesville, Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Baraboo, Reedsburg, Richland Center, Mount Horeb, Monroe, Beaver Dam, Dane County, Rock County, Green County, Iowa County, Richland County, Sauk County, Columbia County, Dodge County and Jefferson County.

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