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with the possession and care of your beloved companion animal. This is a tremendous responsibility and requires considerable thought. You may think, “My sister will take my dog-- she loves dogs.” Perhaps six years down the road, your sister is married, has a child who is severely allergic to dogs and declines the appointment as caregiver. While you cannot plan for every contingency, thoughtful discussions with caregivers and potential alternate caregivers can eliminate a good deal of potential problems. Never name a trustee or caregiver without speaking with them to be certain they are willing to take on the responsibilities.

It is highly reasonable to name the final alternate caregiver (whether that be a third or even fourth alternate) as a non-profit or rescue organization that is willing to serve in that capacity and place your animal in a loving home, where appropriate. As with other caregivers you name, be sure to arrange for this situation prior to naming such an organization to be sure they are willing to take custody of your dog and under what circumstances. A remainder beneficiary should also be named to receive the remaining trust property once your dog passes or is otherwise adopted to another family.

Now that you have named the important players in the trust, it is time to discuss funding it. All

trusts must be funded. Of

course, the amount of funding varies widely depending upon the resources of the guardian and the standards of care enumerated in the trust document. For those without significant funds, you may want to initially fund the trust with a small amount of money while you are alive and well and then acquire a life insurance and/or disability policy with the trust as the beneficiary. You will want to have enough funds to care for the animal throughout his life, but not too much money so as to encourage a challenge to it.

So, the trust is funded and the important roles are filled, but you still have more work to do. You need to identify the animals subject to the trust and the standards of care they will be provided. Take care to describe the animals as specifically as possible. When describing the standard of care, you will want to think about diet, exercise, routine, socialization, medical care, compensation for the caregiver (if any), how the trustee will monitor the caregiver’s services and how often, and ultimate disposition of your dog’s remains. You may be okay with leaving these decisions to your selected caregiver or you may want to describe

The Triangle Dog T Volume 2 • Issue 1 11

the standard of care in detail. The most important consideration is that you make a conscious decision and discuss your wishes with the caregiver. And, if it is important that your wishes are followed, those details should be in the trust document.

Those are the basics of planning for your companion animals in the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated or predecease them. The best way to protect them is to meet with an attorney who handles estate planning and discuss your needs. If your attorney is unfamiliar with pet trusts, there are many resources on the internet to provide assistance.

I also encourage the carrying of a wallet card, describing contact

info for caregivers in the event something

happens to you while you are away from your animals. Be sure the appropriate contacts know about your estate plan and where to locate important documents. The type of plan is not nearly as important as making sure there is a legal plan.

Remember: those who fail to plan, plan to fail and this decision is far too important to be left to chance.

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