Too many people don’t consider their pets when they’re developing their estate plan. They assume they’ll outlive their animals and that if they don’t, one of their relatives will take them in. They may even get a promise from someone that they will.
Unfortunately, animal shelters are filled with pets whose owners passed away. Often, a family member will take in a pet only to find that they have behavioral issues (after all, they’re still in mourning) or have medical issues that require veterinary care they can’t afford.
You can prevent that from happening by establishing a pet trust. Colorado is one of a growing number of states that has a law specifically addressing this kind of trust.
What should you include in a pet trust?
The most important thing is to designate a pet caregiver (and at least one alternate) who will take in whatever pets you have when you pass away and care for them. You can specify that the caregiver will keep them for the remainder of their natural lives. If for some reason they can’t, you can designate whom they can give them to (the alternate caregiver or, if necessary, a rescue group that’s agreed to accept them in needed). It’s critical that you get your intended caregiver’s okay first.
A Colorado pet trust further lets pet owners designate an amount of money to be used solely for their pets’ needs. That money will be managed by a trustee of your choosing. That may be the caregiver or, as an added safeguard, someone else who will oversee the assets and disbursements.
Note that a pet trust doesn’t have to be for a specific pet. If you plan to live a lot longer and adopt many more animals, you can simply designate that the trust is for any animals licensed to you when you pass away.
What if you become incapacitated?
While you’re ensuring your pet’s well-being, it’s a good idea to give someone power of attorney for your pet. This will help ensure that if you land in the hospital unexpectedly or something else unforeseen happens, there’s someone who will care for your animal while you can’t. It can also help them get any information they might need from your vets and manage their care if they need to.
With experienced legal guidance, you can include provisions in your estate plan that will give you peace of mind that your animals will be well cared for if you can’t be there for them.