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.