Straight Talk About Estate Planning For Pets

October 17, 2014

By Fhara Pottinger

For many of us, pets are beloved members of the family. Unfortunately, anyone who has worked in animal rescue can tell you that far too many beloved family pets end up abandoned and in shelters after their owner dies. If that pet is older or requires any form of medical care, their chances of getting adopted are slim. Veterinary care is expensive and benefit plans don’t cover an animal’s medication.

So what is a pet owner to do?

One of the options is to select someone you know who will care for your animal and either leave them a gift of money in your will to provide financially for that pet or alternatively, set up a trust for that pet to care for them over their lifetime.

A pet trust is a relatively straightforward addition to a will that provides ongoing resources as needed.  A trust is popular because you can name someone independent to manage the money, name another final beneficiary (like a favourite pet charity) to receive any balance after your beloved pet dies, and the new pet caregiver has no financial incentive to have your beloved pet put down.

When should you consider a pet trust? Here are a few situations where it may be appropriate:

  1. Horses: horses are expensive to keep and maintain, especially if your beneficiary doesn’t own property where the horse can be kept. A stable and feed can be costly.  A grandchild or family friend may have the interest to take excellent care of your horse but not have the resources to do so. With a pet trust clause, that horse’s expenses can remain funded so that a loving person can continue to care for them.
  2. Medical needs: Is your pet costly to maintain?  Does Fido need special medication or regular vet care to live well? Then a pet trust may be ideal to ensure that the new owner doesn’t just have to put him down in order to avoid those expensive bills.
  3. Long-lived pets: Parrots and other birds can live for decades, turtles and tortoises are lifelong additions and horses can live over 30 years.  If your pet is a lifetime obligation, you may want to consider a pet trust to ensure that your gift doesn’t become a burden.
  4. Money: The person who may be the very best choice to take care of your pet, the one who will love them the way you do, may also be the most financially strapped.  They would love to take in Fido but can’t see how financially they would be able to do so. A pet trust can keep your pet in a home where they are loved.

We at Weilers have over 65 years of experience in Thunder Bay in making sure your Estate Planning meets your family’s needs, even if that family has four legs and fur.