Dog Inherits 12 Million Dollars!

It's no joke!  While most of us could only ever imagine having that much money, that was the headline back in 2007 when Leona Helmsley's left her beloved white Maltese, Trouble, a $12 million trust fund.
Ok, so most of us will not be leaving millions to our pets, but it is necessary to think about what will happen to our pets if something happens to us. 
One_Man_and_His_Dog.jpgIt is important to take the time to ask  yourself questions like:
"What happens to my pet when I die?", "who will look after my pet if I am injured?", " Who will pay for my pet's care when I'm gone?"
While many people make informal arrangements with friends or family for pet care in case of emergency, it is better to make formal plans to  avoid dispute or situations where the new owner doesn't have enough money to care for the pet.  If you don't have a friend or family member to look after your pet when you are gone, it's even more important to put formal arrangements for your pets care in place.
Because the law says  pets are property you can't  just leave money to your pet in your will. There are however, ways you can make sure your pet will be well provided for after your gone.
Here are some points to get you thinking:
• Choosing a new owner - make sure you ask the person first and make your decision legally binding by including it in your will. Think about a second choice in case circumstances change and your first choice is not available or willing. You should also consider leaving money to the person to help cover pet expenses.
• Another option is leaving your pet to one person, and money to care for the pet to another. This might be worth considering if the person caring for your pet receives social security or other benefits or if you don't trust them with money (e.g. they have a gambling problem).
• If you are reasonably well off, consider setting up a pet trust. In most US states, you can set up a "pet trust" where you leave property for the benefit of your pet, with a "trustee" to manage the money according to your written instructions. While pet trusts are not just for millionaires, there are costs involved so you need to take this in to account.
• Pre-arrange veterinary care - consider pet insurance or making arrangements to pre-pay for care with your local vet
• If you don't have someone to care for your pet when you're gone, some rescue groups provide temporary care until permanent homes can be found for them.  Certain other groups such as some Shelters and some  SPCAs run programs specifically aimed at finding homes for the pets of deceased members. Some organizations will care for your pet for its lifetime, provided you make a large (commonly, around $10,000 to $25,000) payment or gift.
Something a lot of people also forget to do is think about what will happen with pets in the short term in the case of sudden death or injury. Usually friends and family help out, but it's a great idea to talk to them  about what will happen in an emergency such as if you are rushed to hospital or injured while on holidays.
What to do know - Ok, that's a lot to think about, so here are some practical steps, to get you started:
• Get a sticker alerting rescue services of pets on your premises like this one from the ASPCA
• take a sheet of paper and make a rough estimate of how much it costs to care for your pet each year, don't forget to include costs of food, vet visits and of course flea, worm and heartworm treatment.
• Next, have a think about who you would ask to care for your pet. If you can't afford to leave money to cover the costs of caring for your pet, can they afford it themselves?
• Thirdly, take a look at some of the programs run by charities. Is that a better option for your pet?
• Fourth, talk to the person you want to leave your pet to. Are they ok with it? Can they look after your pet straight away if there is an emergency?
• Get professional advice from a lawyer about your will and/or pet trusts - update your will or establish a pet trust if appropriate - If you haven't got a lawyer, check out the American Bar Association website for names of lawyers who practice in wills and estates.
For more information on the whole issue, the detailed fact sheets on the  Humane Society website is a great place to start.
No one likes to think about what happens when they pass away, but taking a little time to do so, will make sure you pets get the best care after your gone. An hour or two spent now will give you a great deal of peace of mind for many years on the future, and ensure your dog or cat is properly cared for when you are gone.

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