When people think of someone setting up a trust for their pet, they might imagine Leona Helmsley's pet Maltese named Trouble drinking Perrier from a crystal bowl in a lavish Manhattan penthouse.
While Helmsley left $12 million to her pet dog, this was not her only bizarre moment. The "Queen of Mean" was known to have many eccentricities.
However, you don't have to be rich and eccentric to set up a pet trust. Pet trusts are most commonly set up by caring individuals who just want to make sure that their non-human family member is taken care of in the event of their own death or disability.
Setting up a pet trust is as easy as 1-2-3 when you go to a qualified estate- planning attorney, who has experience with setting up such trusts.
First, you need to decide who would be willing and able to provide the love and attention your pet deserves. Who will get your dog's tail wagging or get your cat's purring? You should name this person as your pet's caretaker.
Next, you need to consider how much money should be set aside for your pet's future care. While Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, your pet probably does not need to pay $100,000 a year for security and $8,000 a year for grooming.
In order to calculate your pet's needs, simply estimate the annual expenses for your pet's food, grooming, medical care and other needs and multiply that by your pet's likely remaining lifespan.
You may want to include some money as a reward to the caretaker for taking on the responsibility of providing the love and attention necessary to provide a happy home for your orphaned pet.
Finally, you need to consider who will manage and distribute the money you have set aside for your pet's care. This person is the trustee of the pet trust. The trustee could be the same person who is providing the care for your pet, it could be another trusted friend or family member or it could be a professional trustee or charity involved with caring for pets.
You plan for your human family, leaving them money and painstakingly considering guardians, trustees and executors. Your furry and feathered family members deserve consideration, too!
Remember, without you planning for them in advance, they may face the same awful fate that awaits so many other orphaned pets.
Contact an estate- planning attorney who focuses in this area today to set up a pet trust for your special friend. You will sleep better knowing that they will continue purring or wagging their tail even if you're no longer able to care for them.
Robert J. Kulas can be reached at (772) 398-0720.