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Planning for Your Fur Family

Planning for Your Fur Family

At MGD Law, we love helping our clients take care of their families through the estate planning process. For many of our clients, the concept of “family” has grown to include planning for dogs, cats, horses, birds, reptiles, and other pets which may outlive the owner.

During our client intake process, our Estate Planning Questionnaire anticipates this need and asks clients to identify their pets so we can include appropriate provisions in their Will or Revocable Trust Agreement.

One simple solution is to name a trusted family member or friend to be the caretaker of the pet and to include a one-time monetary distribution to cover the cost of food, veterinary visits, medical needs, boarding, exercise, and general care. The amount of the distribution varies depending upon the type of animal, as more funds are needed for larger animals such as horses. It is important to name successor caretakers or provide that the Trustee would place the pet with a caretaker if the first named individual should be unable to care for the pet.

A more robust solution is to grant custody of the pet to an individual and to transfer funds to a trust fund for the benefit of the pet, allowing a trustee to hold and invest the trust assets and pay out expenses for the pet as needed. Missouri law permits the creation of a trust for the benefit of the pet (456.4-408 RSMO) for the pet’s lifetime. When a client creates a pet trust, we recommend naming a charity to receive any remaining funds in the pet’s trust after the pet dies. Many clients name a charity with an animal welfare purpose as the final beneficiary.

If a client lacks a trusted caretaker for their pet, a third option is to provide for a donation to a pet adoption center to care for the animal for life until a new suitable owner may be found. Some universities and veterinary schools offer perpetual pet care programs to care for pets in the event of the owner’s disability or death, funded by donation to an endowment fund.

While it is true that the animal cannot hire a lawyer and “enforce” that trust monies are being used properly for its care, a separate or independent trustee could oversee pet care to ensure that trust monies are properly utilized by the caretaker.

At MGD Law, we don’t just love our jobs, we love our pets as well.  We want to help you plan for all your family members, including your beloved pets.

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