Pet ownership can do a lonely senior a world of good. When you bring a dog or cat into your home, you feel a renewed sense of purpose, and this can have sweeping positive effects.
If you have a dog, you will take him for walks if it is possible for you, and this will give you a reason to exercise. Fresh area and a disruption of your indoor routine are very good things, and you may strike up acquaintances with other pet owners and animal lovers.
Indeed, experts have found that pet ownership can provide measurable health benefits, both mental and physical. The one downside is the longevity factor, but this can be effectively addressed when you are planning your estate.
Leave Your Pet to a Caretaker in a Will
There are a few different options available to you when you are engaged in your pet planning efforts. One possibility would be to identify someone that you know that is willing to act as the caretaker after you pass away.
You could leave your pet to this individual, and you can leave them a bequest that is earmarked for the care of the pet. If you go this route, you can make sure that the caretaker gets to know the pet well over time to facilitate a relatively smooth transition if it becomes necessary.
The key is the trust factor, because there would be no legal recourse if the caretaker was to decide to use the money for another purpose. There would also be no guarantees with regard to the way the pet is cared for going forward.
A safer way to proceed would be to fund a pet trust for the benefit of the animal. You could name someone that you know to act as the trustee, but you could alternately use a professional fiduciary.
When you establish the trust, you would designate a successor beneficiary that would assume ownership of assets that remain in the trust after the death of the pet.
In the trust agreement, you can leave instructions with regard to the provisions that will be made for the pet. You can be very specific about the way that you want the pet to be cared for after you are gone.
The trustee would be legally compelled to make sure that your instructions are followed to the letter, and it should be noted that the trustee does not necessarily have to act as the caretaker.
If you do not know anyone that would voluntarily act as the caretaker, and a pet trust is not for you for some reason, there are some other possible options. Charitable programs that care for pets after their owners pass away do exist.
To take advantage of this option, you have to make a relatively large gift to the program. It will typically be somewhere between $10,000 and $25,000. Some of the most highly regarded programs are operated by schools of veterinary medicine at major colleges, so this would be a good starting point if you are interested.
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