Why it’s important to plan their future now.
If you’re a regular consumer of internet or cable news, it’s a safe bet you’ve seen a few examples of pets getting mega-rich via the will of their owner. Michael Jackson leaving $2m to Bubbles, his much-adored pet chimp or Leona Helmsley leaving her pet Maltese, Trouble, a staggering $12m. It’s enough to make you rub your eyes in disbelief.
Now, these sums may appear wild, shocking, even frivolous, but the sentiment is anything but. As we alluded to in our last post, leaving a will or trust that ensures the safety, wellbeing, and happiness of your pet is something you ought to give serious thought.
With up to 500,000 pets (according to the ASPCA) sent to shelters each year, many by way of owners who departed without a plan in place, it’s little wonder these facilities are understaffed, underfunded, and sadly, overly forced to consider drastic measures to reduce their population of sad, scared, and shellshocked pets. Make no mistake, the people who run shelters are saints who do all they can to ensure the wellbeing of their charges, but in the end, it’s a question of manpower vs raw numbers, and all it takes for your beloved pet to end up there is a lack of a plan on your part.
We discussed at length in our last blog about setting up that plan, and all the measures you can take to ensure its timely execution. Here, we’ll zero-in on the question of wills and trusts, and which is better for you and your pet’s short and long term future.
Wills vs Trusts
For many people, the terms ‘will’ and ‘trust’ – as well as their definitions – can be interchangeable and blurred. The truth is, the two documents are very different, as is the timeline and process in executing their instructions. A consultation with an attorney will give you the exact ins and outs of each, but we can give a working definition right here:
A will only takes effect after your death, which is an immediate drawback. What if you become incapacitated? Your pet still requires immediate care, and you may no longer be able to provide it. What’s more, a will takes days, weeks, even months to be reviewed and put into action, and that’s assuming there are no problems or issues that arise. In the immediate days after you can no longer provide for your pet, that’s a problem. Per the humane society’s website, even something as simple as “determining the rightful new owner of your pet can get delayed.”
A trust, on the other hand, can be put into action immediately, whether you die, or just become seriously ill or incapacitated. Again from the humane society; “When you create a trust for your pet, you set aside money to be used for his care, and you specify a trustee to control the funds.” Already, that’s a far better short term process when it comes to ensuring your pet is cared for immediately.
In short, you can’t explicitly and directly leave cash or other assets to your pet in your will. Instead, you must leave those assets (and your pet) to a caregiver you trust. The difference is tangible, and knowing that difference can have a huge impact on your plan of action. With a well written, detailed trust, you can ensure your pets are cared for in exactly the way you wish. Be it their eating habits or exercise demands, the pertinent info can be laid out, then followed through with quickly.
So, how do I set up a trust?
We’d recommend discussing it with an attorney experienced in estate planning. The ASPCA recommends it too, for a simple reason. Because specific laws differ from state to state (and in fact, Minnesota does not recognize pet trusts as valid), there are nuances in planning and executing a trust that most people will not be aware of. Ultimately, it’s worth the financial outlay to ensure your wishes are followed exactly.
The final question is this; where do I keep this information safe, sound, and deliverable to the right person immediately? The answer; AfterVault, of course. Be sure to take a look at our website for a full run-down on how we make sure your vital information lands in the right hands.
Stay tuned for our next pet-related post. We’ll be discussing pet care organizations like retirement homes and programs that have your pet’s wellbeing at their core.
There are hundreds of millions of pets in the U.S. alone. The joy they provide their owners and families is unlimited. What greater pleasure than watching your pup or kitten grow, sharing memories with it and your family?
But what happens to your beloved pet when you’re gone? Unlike human relatives, a full grown pet can’t take care of itself, and it’ll need immediate attention if and when you can no longer provide food, shelter, and most importantly, love. That’s made difficult if you don’t make provisions for your pet’s world without you.
According to the ASPCA, around 500,000 pets are sent to shelters every year because their owners died or became incapacitated. Just imagine; scared, lost, and sad animals thrust into new surroundings, probably in an underfunded, bare shelter, wondering why their parents aren’t there. By spending an hour planning, you’ll make sure your pet is cared for with love and special attention, both in the short and long term.
Ultimately, unexpected doesn’t have to mean unprepared, and we’re here to help you with that preparation.
Here’s what to do to make sure your pets have the care they deserve:
1. Find friends or relatives (at least 2, preferably more) who can commit to becoming short term, emergency caregivers should something happen to you. That means you providing them keys to your home, instructions for feeding and care, veterinarian information, and details about long term care for your pet (a fund you’ve saved, a pet retirement home etc). Of course, these things can become complicated, and that’s where AfterVault comes in. When you open a secure online vault with us, we can store all of that info we mentioned, then make sure it’s delivered in timely fashion to your pre-nominated emergency caregivers should something happen to you. It’s a sure-fire way of making sure lots of detailed information lands in the right hands fast.
2. But how to choose those caregivers? After all, it’s vital they can provide a home and care that’s fair to them and your pet. First, you should decide if you want to separate your pets or keep them together. This will depend on whether one of your emergency caregivers is able to support more than one addition to their home. Of course, if they can, it’s always better to keep your pets together for comfort and security. Make sure the new caregiver knows your pet, has experience caring for animals, and most importantly, understands the huge commitment they’re making. That means having a detailed conversation about your plans.
3. There are also a few simple things you can do to ease the transition. Make sure your social circle (relatives, friends, and neighbors if possible) know exactly how many pets you have, and pass around the details of your emergency caregivers. It’s a great way to make sure news travels fast should a true emergency happen and you become incapacitated. It’s not nice to think about, but ultimately, your beloved pets are the beneficiaries. Be sure to carry a small card in your wallet bearing the names and phone numbers of your emergency caregivers. If you have the space, you might also leave a little note that gives anyone reading the card some general info. Finally, you should consider removable stickers posted on the exterior of your home that inform people about the breed and number of your pets. These stickers will notify people (particularly emergency responders) that you’re not the only one in the house. Why removable stickers? Well, if you move, you don’t want firefighters or paramedics risking their lives searching for pets who no longer live there.
You may be wondering if you should seek legal assistance in providing for your pet after you’re gone. In our next post, we’ll be covering wills, trusts, and pet retirement homes should you wish to go the extra mile (and why not? Your pet will go the extra mile for you!). But, think short term as well as long term. Wills and trusts take time to review and execute, so they’ll be cold comfort to your hungry, confused pet in the days after you’re gone. The key is to think ‘immediate’ before thinking about long term. Once you have a plan for the first days and weeks, we can develop one for the months and years ahead.
To discuss your plans, get in touch with AfterVault experts. It’s the safest, fastest, and most reliable way to ensure your plans are executed in time for your pets.
NOTE: This blog post is intended for general information and thought stimulation. It is not intended as legal advice, and should not be considered a replacement for legal advice from a licensed attorney with experience in the laws of your state, as well as your personal circumstances. If you are confused or worried about making provisions in the event of your incapacitation or death, seek legal counsel.