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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Polly Wants A Cracker, And A Trust Fund

Fluffy, Fido, and Polly are more than just pets. They are family members. But unless you make special plans for them, they will be treated no differently than a piece of furniture when you die.

A lot of people assume that their family members will step up and do the right thing for a beloved pet, but we have seen many heartbreaking things happen to pets who outlive their owners.

Sometimes nobody in the family wants, or is able to, take a new pet into their home. It is extraordinarily difficult to re-home parrots, for example, because they live 50-75 years on average, and the words and tricks one owner taught them may be quite annoying to another owner.

Far more often, however, families end up in bitter fights over pets. We have seen several families ripped apart because they could not agree on who should get to take a beloved pet home after a funeral. Grief makes people do unpredictable things, so even people who think such a thing would never happen in their family should be prepared just in case.

In order to prevent a pet from being abandoned or sparking a huge fight, it is a good idea to include your wishes regarding the care of your pets in your estate plan. The best way to do so is to create a pet trust. Both North Carolina and South Carolina courts recognize these important estate planning tools.

A pet trust allows you to leave money and directions for the care of your furry, feathered, or scaly family members. There is no other way to pass on money to pets or to leave legally binding directions behind.

In order to set up a pet trust, you will need some sort of asset to fund the trust, and people who have agreed to serve as trustees. The most common funding mechanism is life insurance proceeds, and the trustees are typically the people that have agreed to take over the care of your pets. How you fund your trust, and who you select as trustees is a very personal decision, and we are happy to go over different options with you. 

You will also need to make some tough decisions about the care of your pets. For example, if your pet gets cancer, do you want any and all treatments to be tried, no matter how costly? What is the quality of your pet’s life dramatically declines? What if the treatments would use up all the money in the trust? We will work with you to craft instructions that cover common scenarios in a compassionate way.

It is important to note that pet trusts are not as iron-clad as other types of trusts. Some courts view them skeptically, and we have yet to find a judge that will not order that the trust creator’s directions be modified or ignored if they defy what the judge thinks is common sense. This can be frustrating, but it is still a better outcome than seeing a family fight over a pet, or worse, put it down because nobody will agree to take it home. 


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Monk Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Charlotte, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding areas.



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1701 First Baxter Crossing, Suite 101, Fort Mill, SC 29708
| Phone: 803-594-4453
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| Phone: 704-369-9977

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