Many people believe that pets are forever. We should take care of them, love them, and treat them like family. But what happens if one doesn’t outlive their pet? This is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. Many senior pets end up in shelters because the owners have died and the remaining family doesn’t want the pet. People need to realize that dropping a senior pet off at the municipal shelter can mean an immediate death sentence. If you really love your pet and the idea of them sitting in a shelter cage alone, scared, and confused bothers you, then you need to make provisions to provide for them when you’re gone.

A pet trust is a good option for those who want to be sure their pets are taken care of when they’re gone. Pet trusts are legal in over 40 states including Missouri and Kansas. And most trusts are hard to break especially once the grantor (the maker of the trust) has died. If you have a friend or relative that you know without a doubt will take care of your pet when you’re gone, that is great. If not, you’d better set up a pet trust. This way you have legal documentation in place to be sure your pet is cared for properly.

The pet trust document can be drawn up by an attorney but you need to put your wishes in this document. If you want your pet to be walked daily, or have a specific amount of play time each day, you can put that in the trust. Medical care, types of food, and living arrangements can all be put into this document. You also need to be a detailed as possible with your instructions.

Once you’ve written out what you want for your pet after you are gone, you need to choose a trustee. A trustee is the person appointed to carry out the instructions of the trust. A successor trustee also needs to be chosen in case the first one cannot serve. These people should be people you would trust with your very life; people you know who will look out for your pet’s best interests.

Funding the trust is another important decision. Almost anything can be used to fund a pet trust from an investment account to an IRA or a money market checking account. It is wise to obtain a tax ID number from the IRS for this trust and use this on the beneficiary form to be sure the funds will go to the pet trust. The amount designated for the trust will depend on the life span of the animal(s).

The trustee can be given authorization to find a caregiver for your pet and compensate them for the pet’s expenses. The trustee also needs the authorization to do home checks on the pet to be sure everything is going according to the trust. It would also be nice to put a stipulation in the trust that compensates the trustee for their work.

Another important thing to put in the trust is what to do when the pet dies. Our family has lots reserved for our four girls at Wayside Waifs Pet Cemetery and I have a stipulation in my pet trust that they be buried there.

In case the funding for the trust exceeds the life expenses and burial costs of the pets, one should designate a final beneficiary to receive the remaining proceeds. This can be the trustee of the pet trust along with any caregivers, or a charitable organization.

My Mother accuses me of being morbid when I talk about my will and trust but I don’t look at it that way. I believe in being prepared because we never know how much longer we will be here. One should have one’s affairs in order before passing on. Whether it is updating beneficiaries, setting up a personal trust, or writing a will it is a must to include one’s pets in this planning. You wouldn’t want to leave this life without making plans for your children; you should do the same for your pets.