How can I ensure my pet will be taken care of if I die?

A will alone may not be sufficient to cover the care of a pet. Pet trusts are a good way for pet owners to ensure their pets are cared for.

Pets are members of the family for the millions of people in New York and across the country who own them. It is understandable that pet parents will want to make sure their furry family members' needs are taken care of after their death or incapacitation; however, since the law recognizes pets as property rather than family members, it is not possible to leave money or property to pets in a will. Is there a way to make sure the needs of a pet will be handled according to pet owners' wishes? The answer is called a pet trust.

How a pet trust works

Providing for pets with a trust is nearly the same as outlining instructions for human relatives in a trust. A trust involves specific instructions by the grantor, or pet owner, delegated to the trustee to carry out once the trust goes into effect. For example, Grandpa might ask his daughter to serve as a caregiver for his beloved dog and cat once he passes on. He can include the following instructions in a trust so his daughter knows his wishes:

· Veterinary information, checkup and immunization schedules, medical conditions and medications for each animal

· Funds set aside to assist in the animals' care

· Instructions on the type of food each pet eats, dietary restrictions and feeding times

· Information on each pet's favorite toys, walk or play schedule and other aspects of their comfort and happiness

· Designation of a secondary trustee in case the first choice is unable or unwilling to care for the animals

Grandpa might also include a reward in his trust, such as monetary compensation for being willing to provide loving care for his dog and cat.

Why is a pet trust important?

It may seem simple enough to come to a verbal agreement with a family member on taking over the care of a pet. However, one's wishes are not always fulfilled. The person who previously agreed to take a relative's pets might change his or her mind, or be unable to care for them due to unforeseen circumstances. Many pets find themselves abandoned or taken to shelters after their owners' death, instead of given to a family member or friend they are familiar with. For pet owners, an important part of family protection in estate planning includes legally documenting the needs of their pets.

Pet owners in New York may wish to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about creating a pet trust that encompasses the physical and emotional well-being of their beloved animals.