To say that Americans love their pets would be an understatement. In the United States, three out of every five households has at least one dog or cat. Collectively, that means that we own about 80 million dogs and cats in the U.S. – and that figure doesn’t take into account other types of pets such as birds, rabbits, reptiles, and the numerous other critters people keep as pets. As a way to remind people of the importance of caring for their pets, February is designated as “ Responsible Pet Owner’s Month ” each year. That makes February a great time to encourage pet owners to take the time to include their pets in their overall estate plan.
If you consider your cat, dog, or other pet to be part of the family, as most pet owners do, doesn’t it make sense to include your pet in your estate plan? Take a moment to stop and consider what will happen to Fido or Fluffy if something happens to you? Sadly, what happens to half a million dogs and cats each year when their owner dies or becomes sick is that they end up in a shelter.
Although you may have discussed your pet’s care should something happen to you with a family member or loved one, a simple discussion is often inadequate to ensure your pet’s continued well-being in your absence. The reality is that a conversation is not legally binding nor does it provide the funds required to care for your pet should it become necessary to do so. Furthermore, even if your intended caregiver has the best of intentions, those intentions may easily be forgotten in the wake of the grief that will follows your death. The bottom line is the something more is needed to ensure your pet will be cared for in the manner in which you now care for him/her. A pet trust is the answer for many people.
A pet trust allows you to set aside sufficient funds to ensure your pet will be well cared for long after you are gone. More importantly, the terms of your trust will legally require those funds to be used for your pet and used in the manner in which you decide. Finally, you will nominate a Trustee to oversee the management and administration of the trust as a final safeguard for you pet.
If you have additional questions about pet planninf or estate planning in general, contact the experienced South Carolina family law attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.