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June 14, 2006

Older & Wiser


It may seem frivolous to some, but to pet owners who love their pets, making sure their beloved animals are taken care of after they are gone is of the utmost importance. Will someone be notified so that your pet's care is not interrupted? Who will take care of these pets after you are gone?

A properly drafted Pet Trust can appoint a caregiver, appoint a money manager (a Trustee) and provide funds and specific directions for the pet's care. Planning can lead to peace of mind, reducing the anxiety that many pet owners experience when they envision their beloved pet living without them.

Why Plan?

Despite a pet's short life expectancy, the pet may outlive you. This is especially true now that medical intervention results in longer life expectancies for pets than in the past. And some pets naturally live a long life — your parrot may live to age 80.

With proper planning, you can design a care plan not only in the event of your death but also your temporary or permanent disability. You can select a temporary emergency caregiver in the event that something unexpected happens to you – providing them with keys to your home, feeding and care instructions, the name of your veterinarian, and information about permanent care instructions.

There is no assurance that if you leave money to someone outright to care for your pet that they will do what they promised to do. Additionally, the person could die and the money you provided for the care of your pet could go that person's heirs or beneficiaries at his or her death. The money could also be lost in a divorce, bankruptcy or to creditors. A trust protects the money and allows you to select a series of back up caregivers.

What Is A Pet Trust?

A Pet Trust is a legal document you create to ensure that your pets will be cared for as you yourself have cared for them.

With the Pet Trust, you appoint a Caregiver and at least one backup Caregiver to provide care for your pet. You also appoint a Trustee (usually although not necessarily a different person) to manage the money and ensure that the Caregiver is doing his or her job. In the designing of the trust, you decide whether the caregiver and trustee should be paid for their services and what amount that should be.

In the trust document, you provide explicit directions regarding your pet's health care, exercise and diet needs, preferred veterinarian, and burial/cremation plans. You also determine who should get the remaining funds in the trust at the death of the pet.

Providing an orderly plan for your pet can lead to peace of mind.

Meg Rudansky is a Sag Harbor-based attorney who specializes in the areas of Elder Law, Estate Planning and Probate. She can be reached at (631) 725-4778.

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