Plan for the Future

Do You Really Need a Pet Care Trust?

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While most pet owners see their pets as part of the family, the law views them as personal property. As a pet owner, there are several steps you can take for your pet’s ongoing care and health in the event of your death. A pet care trust and pet health insurance are two wise options that can provide you with peace of mind about your pet’s care even in the most difficult of circumstances.

A quick overview of pet care trusts

A pet trust is a legal arrangement generally incorporated into the estate planning process. Pet trusts should designate a caretaker, provide financial assets from the estate to care for the pet and specify the type of care the pet should receive. The trust can specify many different detailed aspects of your pet’s care, including:

  • Veterinary care: For a specific veterinary clinic or frequency of care
  • Food: Type and feeding requests
  • Companionship: Play, grooming and enrichment
  • Exercise: Frequency and type
  • Living environment: Sleeping quarters, lifestyle needs

The funds that are provided for your pet’s care should be carefully calculated to ensure that they will be adequate for the lifetime care of your pet. You can also specify your wishes for your pet’s end-of-life care. You may find a great deal of comfort in knowing that your pet’s needs will be met should your pet outlive you.

Consider your pet's lifespan

A pet trust is especially important in situations where the pet can be expected to outlive you; for example, parrots and tortoises can live longer than humans and may require several caretakers over the duration of their lives. This type of trust may require listing substitute caretakers and careful planning for the potential of many years of care. A dog trust may be more straightforward, as dogs typically have a relatively short lifespan and will require fewer years of care.

What are the steps to create a pet trust?

Setting up a pet trust is as simple as speaking to your attorney about including it as a part of your estate plan. Your attorney can help you establish the trust, draft the paperwork and legalize the trust. You must also choose a trustee and a pet caretaker to carry out your wishes as specified. You may also need to consider any compensation and special arrangements for the pet caretaker you choose.

Is a pet trust the right choice for your pet?

Unless you have a family member who is as invested as you are in your pet’s care and whom you trust implicitly with your pet’s life and care, creating a trust to provide a legal agreement for your pet is a wise and thoughtful approach to pet ownership. Pets whose owners pass away may often end up in shelters if family members cannot care for them, and they are then at the mercy of the adoption system. If you find it difficult to imagine your pet spending time in a shelter or going home with someone whose standards of care may not match your own, consider a pet trust to bridge the possible gap between your death and your pet’s death.

Health care needs for your pet

When setting up a pet trust, one thing you’ll want to consider is the ongoing cost of veterinary care for your pet. Although it is simple to calculate ongoing basic needs such as vaccinations, baseline blood work, teeth cleaning, grooming and other maintenance items, it is impossible to know what health issues your pet may face in his or her senior years. Veterinarians can successfully treat many different types of health issues, and the costs for many treatments can be high. Treating cancer or heartworms, for example, can require many months of treatment and medications that are very expensive. Calculating the approximate costs of health care over a pet’s lifetime can be nearly impossible.

Choosing a pet health insurance plan for your furry friend

There are many different types of pet insurance that are available for pets. Pet health insurance works very much like human health insurance, where a monthly premium is paid and the pet receives a health care policy with specified deductibles, coverage amounts, possible exclusions and other details. There are many choices on the market which can range from a simple preventative care policy to comprehensive accident and illness coverage. As with human health insurance, a pet’s health insurance policy can cover a sizeable portion or nearly all of their health care costs.

Is pet health insurance worth it?

Depending upon the age of your pet, along with other factors, health Insurance for your pet may be a good choice, whether as a part of a pet trust or for any health care needs over the pet’s lifetime. If your pet has an established health care policy, it may be a wise idea to build the premium payments into your pet’s trust so the policy can remain in force throughout the pet’s lifetime. Having this layer of coverage in place will simplify the process of determining the financial needs your pet may require. Although health care costs may be significant, if a high percentage of care is covered by health insurance, the financial resources put in place for your pet are far more likely to be adequate to meet your pet’s needs.

Choosing a pet insurance provider

There are many different providers for pet insurance for veterinary health care needs, and shopping around to find one that meets your needs may take some time and effort. Your pet’s veterinarian may recommend a specific type of insurance and have supplemental information on hand for your review. Some policies may focus on basic maintenance and care that is required on an annual basis. Other policies may not cover preventative care, but they will provide for unexpected health needs and alternative care. Some of the veterinary and health care needs and services that are often covered include:

  • Illnesses.
  • Accidents.
  • Emergency care.
  • Chiropractic care.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Behavioral care.

The high cost of pet health care and your pet’s trust

Serious illnesses and accidents are situations in which the cost of veterinary care can really add up, and is likely the most important type of insurance to choose for your pet. You may choose to have two layers of insurance — one to cover preventative care and the other to cover illnesses and accidents. This may be a simple way to incorporate your pet’s health care costs into your pet trusts. With financial resources provided for ongoing premium payments, the cost of your pet’s health care needs can be minimal when a comprehensive, low deductible, high-coverage policy is in place to absorb significant costs.


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