When you get a pet, you’re taking on a long-term obligation. This is why many parents have their children get fish or other pets that don’t require a lot of attention and that don’t live for many years, just to get them used to the idea of caring for a pet. Buying a dog may be what the child was asking for, but that could be a 10 to 15-year commitment and they want to make sure they’re ready for it.
Their long lifespan does give people time to bond with dogs, but it can also create some problems. For instance, what if you pass away unexpectedly? Your dog could still have a decade of life ahead of it. Or what if you were already entering the later stages of your life, but you want a new dog. You know that the odds are fairly high that you don’t have another 20 years, so you’ll want to plan for your pet to be well cared for after you’re gone.
Setting up a pet trust
Your pet can’t own any property or hold assets. People sometimes say that they’re just going to leave $10,000 to their dog, for example, thinking that they can put that money in their will. This way, the dog will have money that someone can use to pay for vet care, buy food and things of that nature. But since the dog cannot own assets, doing this just won’t work.
Instead, a better idea is to put the money for your pet into a trust. The trust can be administered per any terms of your choice. For instance, people use trusts to specify that money has to be used to pay for an heir’s college education. You can do the same thing to dictate that the money has to be used for the care of your pet.
The critical part, at this juncture, will be choosing a trustee. Is this going to be the same person who lives with the dog and physically takes care of them after your passing? That may be easiest, but it doesn’t have to be set up this way. You may know one person who loves your pet and would be very good at caring for them, and another person who understands complex financial situations and would be best at administering the trust. These two individuals could work together, or you could pick one person for both roles.
The end goal
No matter what you decide to do, the key is to plan in advance. If you understand exactly what legal options you have, then you can help to facilitate a positive future for your dog, no matter what happens. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.