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Love Your Pets: Including Your Furry Family in Your Estate Plan

Pets are family. Making plans for your furry child is just as challenging as making plans for a human child. Dogs and other pets are more than property. They require care, love and to be included in your Estate Plan. The circumstances surrounding your pet and their care are unique to you. Your pet’s care and protection cannot wait months for your Will to go through probate. In Florida, a Pet Trust can provide for your furry family when you can no longer care for them. 

While all animals need food and water, a Pet Trust goes beyond that. You can dictate who cares for your pets, where they live and more. The South Florida Pet Trusts Attorneys from the Siegel Law Group love our pets and help our clients include them in estate plans.

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What to Consider in Your Pet Trust

There is no straightforward answer for what you should put in your Pet Trust. All pet parents have different goals for their beloved pets. Some want them to stay in the home while others would place them with family or friends. Sometimes the pet will go to a sanctuary, which is typical for pets like horses. Consider your pet’s current needs and how you would like to maintain or adjust them when you are gone. Your plan should consider what happens if you are incapacitated by disability, a natural disaster or death. Consider the following questions:

  • Does your pet have special care requirements?
  • Where do you want your pet to live?
  • Who will provide daily care?
  • Who oversees and administers the funds you leave for your pets?
  • What financial resources can you provide for your pet?

The answers to the questions will be the basis of your Pet Trust. You can discuss your specific needs further with our South Florida Pet Trust Attorneys. 

Deciding Pet Care 

The first and most significant step when establishing a Pet Trust is deciding who will be a pet caregiver. This can be a person or organization. The party will have physical custody of your pet and be responsible for daily care. This is similar to deciding custody of your children. You must think this through and choose someone you are comfortable with. This is the most significant and challenging decision during Pet Trust planning. 

If you choose friends or family, you should discuss your plan with them. You should not assume they will provide lifetime care just because you want them to. It is best to talk with them about this role’s responsibility and confirm this is a commitment they can make. If there is no one you are comfortable with or is willing to take on the lifetime responsibility of pet care, you can consider a pet sanctuary or private care organization. 

Without a care plan for your pet, they may not have much time left. When an owner dies, pets can be left to fend for themselves, becoming homeless or running away. In other cases, they are euthanized like an estimated 920,000 pets are annually. A pet care plan can prevent your furry child from fending for themselves or being put down. 

The Financial Picture 

Pets can be expensive, and the subsequent issues you should consider in your Pet Trust. You must consider how much you will need for lifetime care costs and where these finances will come from. If you choose to keep your pet in your home, you must consider the costs of maintaining your home even when you are incapacitated. You must also consider compensation for your caregiver. Lastly, you should calculate how much you spend on your pet now and multiply that by the average lifespan for your type of pet. 

Deciding how much money is enough is difficult. You must consider individual circumstances. While considering lifetime care costs, housing and caregiver compensation, you should also provide a little cushion. Sometimes, pets become sick or suffer injuries. This is not something anyone can predict, and it can be expensive. Ensure you provide a substantial overhead for these circumstances. 

How you leave the money is another consideration. Some pet parents choose to leave a fixed sum to the caregiver. While this sounds like a good idea, it is also the riskiest. There is no way of knowing if they are using the funds for pet care and not other expenses. A better option is establishing a Pet Trust in your Revocable Living Trust or Last Will. You can also have a stand-alone Pet Trust. Every situation has pros and cons. Discuss your options with our South Florida Pet Trust Attorneys. 

Picking a Trustee for Your Pet 

A pet trustee is different from a caregiver. Sometimes, it is the same person, but that is not ideal. The trustee will manage the money for your pet. They are responsible for ensuring your final wishes are met. Ideally, you will want someone who is a professional trustee. They have no responsibility for caring for the pet and solely handle the financial aspect of care. This can include:

  • Trust company 
  • Certified public accountant 
  • Attorney 
  • Charity 

Your pets rely on you for everything. If something happens to you, they cannot care for themselves. Consider how you will protect them if you are not here. Often we outlive our pets, but things can happen that result in the opposite outcome. You should also consider what will happen when your pet reaches the end of their life. Like your burial wishes, you should outline what you want to happen to your pet. If funds are left in the Pet Trust, where will these funds go when they die? Our South Florida Pet Trust Attorneys will discuss every option and factor when you come for an initial consultation. 

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Call THE South Florida Pet Trust Attorneys – The Siegel Law Group 

Will Siegel - Florida Pet TrustsPets are part of the family. They provide unconditional love and emotional support. When considering the future, you want to ensure your pet is cared for. The Siegel Law Group loves pets so much you can meet our beloved golden retriever, Will, when you come in to set up a Pet Trust. Submit a photo and brief bio of your pet for them to be featured in our pet spotlight

Call our office at 561-576-6206 to schedule a complimentary consultation, or submit our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.


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