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What About Fluffy?

August 11, 2011
Scott A. Makuakane and Roya J. Deyhim

What happens to your beloved pet if you are not here? A pet is part of your family, and for some folks, a pet is their only family. You wouldn’t leave your son or daughter out on the street, but nevertheless, too many animals are left behind with no plan in place to make sure they have a home in which to live out their lives.

Hawai‘i law allows you to create a pet trust to provide for the proper care of your pet in the event of your death or disability. In the trust agreement, you name a trustee (a person you trust) who will be in charge of making the arrangements for your pet’s care. The trustee could also be the person who cares for your pet, but naming a separate individual as caregiver provides a “check and balance” approach.

In your pet trust, you can leave instructions about your pet’s diet, your pet’s favorite toys, your preferences for veterinarians, compensation for your caregiver, and where your pet is going to live.

You may recall that the late Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, Trouble. Ultimately, the court reduced the size of the trust, but still left enough to give Trouble a comfortable life.

Pet trusts are not just for the rich, and you don’t have to leave millions to care for your pets. Think about what you spend on your pet each year, and multiply that number by the number of years you expect your pet to live in order to come up with a reasonable amount to set aside for your pet’s care and maintenance. That way, Fluffy ends up in a loving environment rather than the pet cemetery.

Once your pet has lived out its life, the trust will terminate. If there are any funds left in the trust, you can designate an individual or perhaps your favorite charity to receive the balance.

It makes sense to have a plan for what happens if you check out before your furry friend. Consult an estate planning attorney who can make certain that Spot, Fluffy, Peeper or Bubbles will be taken care long after you are gone.



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