Pet Trusts: The Importance of Planning for Your Pets
BY JODI M. CLOCK, CCA, CPLP, AUTHOR, IT'S COMPLICATED!
Why protect your pet? Did you know that the Humane Society of the United States reports we euthanize 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs in U.S. shelters each year? That’s about one every 11 seconds.
Most people think that the pets who are euthanized are old, run loose, and are simply not desirable due to their breed. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reality of the situation is that of the 2.7 million pets that are euthanized, 25% are purebred. It’s safe to say, that the majority of these pets, came from a loving home, where their pet parent died or entered into a care facility that was not pet friendly. This is a scenario that most funeral homes witness on a regular basis. All too often, pet parents assume friends or family will adopt or properly re-home their precious pet.
Pet Ownership in America Today. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturer Association, here is what the complexion of pet owners are in society today. Millennials are the largest cohort of pet owners at 32%, Boomers come in second at 27%, and GenXers make up 24%. Today, many Millennials are electing not to have children and prefer to have pets. Boomers used to lead the pack (pun intended!) however they are aging and or dying.
Here is what pet ownership looks like:
• 90.5 million households own at least one pet that’s 70% of all households in America. The breakout looks like:
• 69 million own dogs – Most popular
• 45.3 million own cats
• 9.9 million own birds
• 6.2 million own small animals
• 5.7 million own reptiles
• 3.5 million own horses
In a recent study, this association also learned that 51% of pet owners are willing to pay more for ethically sourced pet products and eco-friendly pet products. One example of this is a large increase has been spiking in pet insurance for both dogs and cats.
Pet Trusts Today. Pet trusts are now valid in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. There is a common misconception about pet trusts – people associate them with celebrities and assume they are for wealthy individuals. Pet owners are unaware of the options that are available. As pet parents, it’s time we create a plan for our pet’s future, should something happen, and we are unable to care for our pet.
Think about it this way. Legally, the law considers pets part of your property. As responsible individuals we make plans for out “things” in a “Last Will and Testament” as part of our estate planning. Creating a plan for our pets should be considered one more part of our end-of-life planning.
A Turn-Key Pet Trust Solution. A pet trust can be created with or without an attorney. In fact, this option is both simple and solid, many estate planning attorneys and financial advisors are using this option for their clients. But here’s the catch – you can go online and do it yourself! How cool is that? It’s also the most recognized and respected pet trust in the country. It’s called the “Animal Care Trust USA”.
It’s a 501c3 non-profit charity, whose mission is to keep loved pets in loving homes.
Since no two people’s needs or financial situations are alike, there is no one size fits all approach. The Animal Care Trust USA offers three choices for pet owners to choose from.
1. ACT4Pets Community Pet Trust – A trust you join – the first of its kind!
2. Forever Loved Pet Trust – a trust you can personalize. Choose your own Pet Caregivers and Pet Trustees.
3. Create a Custom Pet Trust – use Animal Care Trust USA for Pet Trustee services
For more detailed information please visit animalcaretrustusa.org/ACT4Pets
What Does a Pet Trust Do? A pet trust is a legally enforceable plan that determines how your pet will be cared for, who will provide your pet with care and where your pet will live. It also helps you calculate the cost of pet care. There are many factors that go into determining the cost of your pet’s lifetime love and care:
• Type and age of pet
• Food and medicines including monthly flea treatment and heart worm preventative
• Toys and treats
• Veterinary care – annual care, plus chronic or catastrophic care
• Boarding and grooming
• End of life care – euthanasia, cremation/burial, final disposition
• Caregiver compensation and expenses.
• If your pet will remain in their existing home, then there will be the costs of the mortgage, if any; taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance. (This is common for horse owners)
• Trustees' fees.
Check out online calculator at animalcaretrustusa.org/free-downloads/
Funding Your Pet Trust. A pet trust will need to have sufficient financial support for lifetime love and care of your pet. There are many ways to fund a pet trust. Below are just some examples of what others have done, however many people elect to utilize a small term life insurance policy and have their pet trust be the beneficiary.
• Checking, savings, certificates of deposit
• Money market, mutual funds and investment accounts
• Stock and bonds
• Real property
• Personal property
• Life insurance and annuities
• Retirement plans – IRA, 401k/403b, Roth
How to Create a Written Pet Action Plan. At minimum every pet parent should have a binder or folder with you pet or pets important information. This binder should include:
• Pet’s name and breed complete with pictures
• Vet Clinic information
• Any diet needs
• Brand of food
• Favorite activities and toys
• Your pet’s likes and dislikes
Once the above has been completed for each pet, if you are looking to begin the pet trust process, the suggested next steps are below. For further information on pet trust planning, please take time to look into the Animal Care Trust USA.
• Identify at least two people, “Pet Caregivers” to be responsible for your pets – short term and long term
• Assemble a notebook to hold important information and documents
• Carry an emergency pet alert card and carry it in your wallet and or glove box with your registration.
• Post an “in case of emergency” decal or sticker on doors, windows, car dash
• Include specific pet provisions in your estate plan, ideally Powers of Attorney and Trusts.
I launched a podcast! It is available where most people listen to podcasts. It’s called “I Woke Up Dead…Now What” – Welcome to a candid conversation about life. This is a safe place to share experiences, learn best practices, and ask the tough questions in order to prepare for end-of-life realities we all will face, not only for ourselves, but our pets too!
Here it is on Amazon Music.
Episode 1 is “Why Wake Up Dead?” It’s 9 minutes and shares with listeners “why” me – and “why” should they listen to what I have to say.
Jodi M. Clock is an international speaker and expert on how to help families have a difficult conversation with their loved ones about legacy planning. Having personally witnessed the financial confusion that families endure, especially at an emotionally taxing time, Ms. Clock has centered her career on helping people to understand the options that are available to them. She currently writes and speaks about the basics of Medicaid and asset protection, how to avoid family feuds, end-of-life directives and is a seasoned expert in on pet trusts, as well as their final care. Since 1988 Jodi has worked in the "end-of-life planning" industry including family and corporately owned funeral homes, advance funeral planning companies, casket manufacturers and now practices what she preaches at Clock Funeral Home and Clock Timeless Pets with her husband Dale.
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