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How a pet trust can help ensure the well-being of your animals

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Too often, people don’t include their pets in their estate plan because a relative or friend has promised they’ll take them in if they outlive their person. Others just assume a family member will take them.

Anyone who works in an animal shelter or rescue organization will tell you they see dogs and cats brought in regularly by people who couldn’t care for their deceased loved one’s animal. Whether it’s because of someone’s allergies, conflicts with other pets or behavioral issues likely exacerbated by the pet’s grief, they no longer feel obligated to care for a loved one’s pet.

You can prevent this scenario for your pets by including a pet trust in your estate plan. Fortunately, Colorado is among the states with a law specifically addressing pet trusts.

What does a pet trust include?

Many people think a pet trust is for people who want to leave their money to their animals. That’s not the case. You can (and should) designate some assets to go towards the care of your pets. However, more importantly, it helps ensure that your pets will be cared for by someone you know and trust.

A pet trust lets you designate a pet caregiver for the rest of your pets’ natural lives. You should also designate at least one alternate caregiver. As a last resort, you should specify a rescue group that will take in the animals if necessary. Of course, it’s critical to discuss your wishes with all parties to make sure they’re agreeable before codifying this.

In your pet trust, you should also designate a certain amount of money to go to your pet caregiver for the sole benefit of your pet. This should include the estimated cost of veterinary bills and insurance, grooming, food and other expenses. You can designate that this money go directly to the caregiver or to someone else who will manage it and disburse the funds as needed.

Note that a pet trust doesn’t have to be set up for a specific pet. You can designate that it applies to any companion animals registered to you when you pass away (or become incapacitated). This minimizes the need to update your estate plan as you gain or lose animals.

This is just a brief outline of how pet trusts work. Yours can be individualized to suit you and your animals’ needs. Having experienced legal guidance is important to creating a solid pet trust and having peace of mind that your animals will always be cared for.