Don’t Forget to Plan for Pet-Care for the Long Term

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Janice Gough
Janice Gough

So many of us give our constant love and time to our pets; however, many forget to add their pets in their estate plan.

Under our State laws, pets are considered personal property, and they need special consideration in an estate plan to ensure they receive the proper care when their owners can no longer care for them. A Pet Trust can dictate the type of care a pet will receive after its owner is gone and supply funds for that care; it also gives owners peace of mind knowing that their beloved pets will be cared for.

By establishing a trust for your pets, you can plan for their care for their life after you can longer care for them. Even if you do have a specific person to care for your pet(s), setting up the Pet Trust is recommended in the event of the successor caretaker’s untimely death or health problems. 

The pet trust will need to hold a certain sum of money to pay for the pet’s care. To determine the amount, first estimate the annual costs of food, veterinary care, routine medications, pet insurance, and supplements, as well as any other recurring fees, and then multiply that by the entire life expectancy of the pet(s). It is also essential to factor an extra amount, as your pet’s medical care costs may increase due to age.

Be sure to identify each pet clearly.  To others, your pet may look like another. A specific description of the pet and its features is necessary, to ensure and avoid copycat pets. (Because there is money involved, an unscrupulous caretaker might seek to have payments continue past a pet’s death.). Include a list of microchip numbers and other identifying information in the trust document.

Finally, the owner should clearly state in the trust that the care of the pet is the trust’s primary purpose and that all funds should be used to care for the pet. A remainder beneficiary can be listed for any funds remaining after pet’s death. Some chose a non-profit animal welfare group.

In most cases, you will need to designate both a trustee and a caretaker. Consider these choices carefully. The trustee will be in charge of the money and will have the legal responsibility to ensure that the money is used correctly by the caretaker. You may also want to give the trustee the ability to remove and replace the caretaker, if necessary.

The trustee is entitled to compensation, and it is generally a good idea to provide an annual stipend for the caretaker as well. Outline this compensation clearly in the trust. It is essential for you to list in detail how the pet should be cared for. Include the name of the preferred veterinarian and the minimum number of vet visits per year, as well as any requirements for boarding, grooming, pet walking services, toys, treats — even doggie daycare.

Using these tips as a guideline for developing a pet trust will ensure that the pet is protected and well cared for.

Janice Gough is a Financial Advisor in Palm Springs.  You may reach Janice  by calling (760)251-7724 or (650) 200-8291 or visit our website: or