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New Jersey pet owners: Should you consider a pet trust?

According to recent reports, more than two-thirds of U.S. households have a pet. And of the 68 percent of homes that have a pet, many of them will have that pet for several years. For some, a pet is a life-long companion. But what if a pet outlives an owner? What will happen to the welfare and care of that animal?

Taking care of a pet can be an enormous responsibility. Pet owners know that they are not just caring for an animal; they are caring for an important family member. But other people may not be quite as connected to a pet, which means that it may not always be appropriate to simply hope or assume that someone else will step in and take care of a pet after an owner dies. That is why families across New Jersey may want to consider setting up a pet trust. 

Pet trusts are increasingly becoming a solution for people with pets who want to make sure their beloved companion will still be cared for even when owners are no longer able to do so themselves. Like other trusts, pet trusts are administered by a trustee and are set up to ensure that a pet's financial, medical and emotional needs continue to be met for the rest of its life. With a trust in place, owners can set aside money that can only be used for the care of an animal and identify a caregiver who will be responsible for providing this care.

Without a pet trust, it is possible that a pet's welfare could be neglected. By not putting money into a specific trust, any finances that have been set aside for pet care could be used for other things. Even if a caretaker agrees to only use the money on the animal, he or she is not legally obligated to do so. And this is assuming that someone has agreed to continue taking care of an animal, which may not always be the case.

However, working with an attorney to develop a plan for the continuing care of a pet after an owner has died can provide people with peace of mind. With a pet trust in place, an owner can be sure that an animal will continue to get the care and attention it needs.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills," Anne Tergesen, Jan. 12, 2014

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