By Michele C. Hollow
A friend of mine in her late 50s wants to get another parrot. The problem is African Grays, her favorite, live between 50 and 60 years old. She fears that the parrot will outlive her. It’s a concern that many older adults fear–and rightfully so.
A survey from the American Pet Products Association points out that each year approximately 500,000 dogs and cats are placed in shelters when their pet parents die. “By taking 15 minutes to create a trust for your pet this problem could easily be eliminated,” says Chris Jones, a 40-year Trust Attorney, and the founder of Trusted Pet Partners, a legally-binding Pet Trust. “Creating a trust is simple to set up on line; plus, you will avoid the costly fees that would accrue if you sat down with an attorney to do this.”
I interviewed Chris, who is also a partner with the Santa Barbara law firm Eaton, Jones and Michelon, about ensuring that your pet will be well cared for long after you are gone.
Pet News and Views: What is a Pet Trust?
Chris Jones: Trusts are legal documents by which an individual gives property, such as money, to a person called a trustee. That trustee holds, manages and distributes the property as they are instructed, for the benefit of identified individuals, known as beneficiaries. With a pet trust, the beneficiaries are pets. Like appointing guardians for minor children, pet trusts appoint a caregiver for the pet. The pet trust also designates where any remaining property goes after the identified pets are no longer alive.
PNAV: How does a Pet Trust differ from a will?
Chris: Unlike living trusts, which become effective when they are signed, wills do not take effect until after the will’s creator dies. Wills are usually enforced through court proceedings known as probate. A judge must appoint the executor, and the executor’s actions must be approved by the court. Court enforcement of wills takes time, sometimes over a year. Because of the delays in enforcing a will, they are not the best solution to the problem of your pets’ care.
Most wills simply give a person’s pets to a third party–usually with a sum of money to pay for the pets’ care. When pets are given in this fashion, the law views the pets as mere property, to be refused, or disposed of, as the recipient wishes. This means that no one can legally enforce them. On the other hand, a pet trust is a legally enforceable guarantee.
PNAV: How do I choose a trustee?
Chris: The trustee’s job includes collecting and managing the assets of the Trust. When choosing a trustee consider:
1. Choose someone younger than you. You want to nominate a pet trustee who will be around when you are not, and who will have the energy to give your pets the attention that they will need when you are no longer able.
2. Choose a pet trustee with demonstrated integrity. Make it clear to them what the job entails, so they know what they are signing up for.
3. Choose a pet trustee that works well with others. Besides your pet trustee, you will also be nominating a caregiver for your pets. Does your trustee work well with the caregiver? Even if the pet trustee is also named as the caregiver, he will still need to work with bankers, financial advisors, veterinarians and the like.
4. Choose a pet trustee with some financial experience. If your pet trustee has never handled money, don’t have them learn at your pets’ expense. They need to manage whatever assets you have designated so as to provide for long term care for your pets.
5. The best way to make your pet trustee’s job easier is to tell him exactly what you want him to do, both in the trust document and by verbal instructions. We recommend that you prepare detailed instructions for your pets’ care, including their likes and aversions. What food do they eat, and when? What is their exercise regimen? Who are their vets and groomers? What are their medicines? Who do they play with, and who do they avoid or don’t get along with? Create a pet trust that will give the people that you nominate the ability to legally enforce your instructions for the benefit of your pets.
PNAV: What will this cost?
Chris: The amount needed for the care for your pets over their remaining lifetimes includes determining your pets’ longevity, the cost of their regular annual care, the cost of possible extraordinary medical expenses, and the trustee’s and caregiver’s fees. Trusted Pet Partners recommend that your caregivers and trustees receive compensation for their generosity in providing the continuing care for your pets as well as a pet insurance policy to make sure they are properly cared for in emergencies.
For more on Pet Trusts, click here.
From Michele–the writer of Pet News and Views: This is a touchy subject for many of us. Yet, it is important that we make these provisions for our fur kids. Chris at Trusted Pet Partners is giving away 5 Pet Trust gift certificates to 5 lucky Pet News and Views’ readers. These Pet Trust certificates are valid in all states, except KY, LA, MA, MN, and MS. This is a $289 value, which is a lot cheaper than going to an attorney! Plus it includes unlimited lifetime updates. You can insure up to 5 pets with each Pet Trust certificate.
This contest is only open to Pet News and Views subscribers in the U.S.–except for the states listed above. You can subscribe to Pet News and Views via RSS feed or Email–just click on the words “By Email” or “Subscribe” at the top right hand of the screen and fill out the information. Then leave a comment about your pet in the comments section of this post. I will gather all of the comments and place them in Randomizer.org. Randomizer.org will pick 5 winners. I will notify all of the winners. (I wish I could enter–darn!) The contest closes February 3, 2011.