GROVE, Calif. — What happens if your pets outlive you
or you become too ill to take care of them?
are difficult questions. But if you create legal
documents for your pet or pets, they will receive the
care that they need and deserve.
was the subject of a recent workshop at Peace of Mind
Dog Rescue, the nonprofit that has placed more than
1,000 pets since it began in 2009.
attorneys and two financial advisers were on hand to
talk about the legal and financial avenues to ensure
pets have a future after their owners die or become
Clark and her daughter Whitney W. Clark, attorneys at
the Clark Law Office in Salinas, are offering to set up
trusts for pets free of charge. The firm recently
prepared its first pet trust for a person with six dogs.
wanted to do something to give back to the
critters," Margaret Clark said.
established the legality of a pet trust in 1999, Clark
said. A pet trust is a legally enforceable document.
There are two steps involved: deciding on a pet
caregiver and on a trustee.
trust, Clark said, is better than leaving money for a
pet’s care in a will. Wills must go through probate in
court, and it can take a long time to conclude. A trust
does not have to be probated, thus eliminating delay and
court costs. Also, distributing money to benefactors
through a will requires a court order.
a trust a designated trustee can distribute the funds.
biggest problem … to me," Clark said, "is
that delay (for probating the will). No one will have
legal authority over that pet."
pet trust can be as specific as you want regarding their
care. The more specific, the better.
told of an owner of a black lab named Clancy. The owner
chose a caregiver and a bank was the trustee. Money was
distributed for Clancy’s care through the bank. No one
monitored the caregiver. For years money was sent for
one day the bank decided to pay a visit to the
caregiver. It turned out that Clancy had died years
before. The caregiver bought a new black labs, named
them Clancy and continued to receive payments for their
Kuprina, president and client portfolio manger for
Sequoia Wealth Advisors, had another story.
wealthy person left money in a trust for her two cats.
Family members were the caregivers. There was no mention
in the trust about spaying or neutering the cats. The
caregivers eventually wound up with 78 cats, leading to
family disputes and court battles.
deciding how much money to designate for pet care, Clark
said, "Sit down and say, ‘How much do I spend on
my pet during a year?’ and add in factors for more
than one pet."
a trustee is most important, Clark said. Be sure it is
someone who will care for your pet, or choose a
nonprofit like Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, which places
pets with new owners or foster families.
you pick a trustee you really have to choose carefully
…," Clark said. "Always ask yourself the ‘what-ifs.’"
as what if the trustee dies before the pet. Make sure
there is a way to continue the pet’s care. Also, be
sure there is a backup plan designating who will get any
leftover money if the pet dies.
pointed out that about 5,000 pets a year are euthanized
in California after a pet owner dies.
are many ways, she said, to leave money for pet care.
They can include life insurance policies, stocks, IRAs
and giving money for care to an agency like Peace of
Mind Dog Rescue, either in cash, with real estate or
like Peace of Mind Dog Rescue receive 100 percent of
donations because of their nonprofit status.
a lot of creative ways to fund (pet care) during your
lifetime or after your lifetime …," Kuprina said.
"Look at the entire situation and what is the most
efficient way to do it."
cautioned to check with a tax professional before making
a decision. And reviewing and updating your
beneficiaries is especially important.
the right decisions now will ensure your pet lives a
good life after you depart.