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Providing for your pets in your estate plan

When you discussed your ideas for your estate plans with your family, you likely talked about your various assets, properties and accounts. You may have sought their opinions about how to provide for the education of your grandchildren, the well-being of your disabled sibling and the support of your spouse and children. It seems like a solid and comprehensive plan except for one thing.

The forgotten party may have been right at your side during your family discussions: your loyal pet. Many overlook the fact that their beloved friends may outlive them and cannot fend for themselves. Having provisions for your furry or feathered friends is an important part of a complete estate plan for pet parents.

Why a trust instead of a will?

Sadly, many animal companions end up in shelters or worse even when their owners mention them in their wills. Leaving your pet to someone in your will may seem like a good idea, but there are no Nevada laws that obligate that person to accept the animal or to follow your will's instructions for caring for your pet. This is why estate planning advisors recommend pet trusts.

A pet trust can provide the following benefits for your pet that a will cannot:

  • A fund for the care of your pet
  • A caretaker for your pet
  • Exact instructions for the day-to-day and long-term care of your animal
  • A trustee to oversee the management of the funds and the adherence to your instructions

Once you establish your pet trust and discuss its contents with your chosen caretaker, you can rest assured that your beloved companion will have the care and attention he or she deserves after a long life of friendship and loyalty to you. If you should become incapacitated or pass away while your pet is still living, your chosen caretaker will step in to ensure your pet receives uninterrupted attention without having to wait out the probate process if you simply had a will.

Some of the instructions you can leave for your caretaker include these:

  • How much attention you expect your pet to receive
  • Where and how often the pet should be groomed
  • A schedule for vet appointments
  • Instructions for dealing with emergency medical issues
  • Instructions for the end of the pet's life

You may even wish to include more specific information, such as which brand of pet food to purchase and how often to take the animal for a walk. Your trustee will evaluate the level of care your pet's caretaker administers as often as your trust dictates. When your pet comes to the end of its life, your trust can provide instructions for how to distribute any funds that remain.

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