Unlike a will, a trust can provide for your pet immediately and can apply not only if you die, but also if you become ill or incapacitated. That's because you determine when your trust becomes effective. When you create a trust for your pet, you set aside money to be used for his care and you specify a trustee to control the funds.
A trust created separately from your will carries certain benefits. The trust can be written to exclude certain assets from the probate process so that funds are more readily available to care for your pet. Additionally, it can be structured to provide for your pet even during a lengthy disability.
There are many types of wills and trusts; determining which is best for you and your pet depends on your situation and needs. It's important to seek the advice of an attorney who both understands your desire to provide for your pet and can help you create a will and/or trust that best provides for him.
You and your attorney also need to make sure that a trust for the benefit of one or more specific animals is valid and enforceable in your state. Even if your state law recognizes the validity of such trusts, keep in mind that tying up a substantial amount of money or property in a trust for an animal's benefit may prove to be controversial from the point of view of a relative or other heir. Moreover, trusts are legal entities that are relatively expensive to administer and maintain, all of which underscores the need for careful planning and legal advice.
After you and your lawyer create a will, a trust, or both, leave copies with the person you've chosen to be executor of your estate as well as with the pet's designated caregiver so that he or she can look after your pet immediately. (The executor and caregiver may or may not be the same person.) Make sure the caregiver also has copies of your pet's veterinary records and information about her behavior traits and dietary preferences.
Powers of attorney, which authorize someone else to conduct some or all of your affairs for you while you are alive, have become a standard planning device. Such documents can be written to take effect upon your physical or mental incapacity and to continue in effect after you become incapacitated. They are simpler than trusts and do not create a legal entity that needs to be maintained by formal means. Provisions can be inserted in powers of attorney authorizing your attorney-in-fact -- the person designated to handle your affairs -- to take care of your pets, expend money to do so, and even to place your pets with permanent caregivers if appropriate.
Like any other legal device, however, powers of attorney are documents that by themselves cannot ensure that your pet is fed, walked, medicated, or otherwise cared for daily. Legal devices can only complement your personal efforts in thinking ahead and finding temporary and permanent caregivers who can take over your pet's care immediately when the need arises. It is critical to coordinate, with more formal legal planning, your own efforts in finding substitute caregivers.
If you or your legal advisor would like more information on any of these matters, please contact The HSUS's Major and Planned Gifts Office, at 1-800-808-7858 or email@example.com, or The HSUS's Office of the General Counsel at 202-452-1100, extension 3320.
You can help animals even after you're gone with a bequest supporting HSUS animal protection programs. Naming The HSUS in your will demonstrates your lasting commitment to animal welfare. Please keep in mind that we're just as happy to be last in line in your will; we hope you will consider The HSUS for at least the residue of your estate. In the meantime, we have materials on bequests and wills that we can send you. For example, we can provide you with information on how to include The HSUS in a will as a primary or secondary beneficiary, or as a final beneficiary for the residue of an estate.