Certified New Jersey Elder Law Attorneys

McHugh & Macri
Certified Elder Law Attorneys Serving New Jersey Residents since 1978.
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New estate planning options for pet owners

NAELA National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. MEMBER

Pets provide the comfort of companionship for many elder citizens and younger families. Most New Jersey pet owners know the importance of the family cat or dog, yet only 17 percent of owners include their pets in estate planning documents. Almost every state has created the option for pet trusts, and lower cost alternatives do exist for elders to ensure continuity of care for their animal friends.

Trusts dedicated to pets are a good choice for those leaving behind $50,000 or more, according to one elder law attorney familiar with the topic. Establishing this type of trust may cost around $1,500, and the benefits may be worth the cost for some. A primary reason for establishing a trust is that any remaining money can be transferred to a new beneficiary following the pet's death. Owners may also use such trusts to ensure confidence that money will be applied toward specified needs by choosing a separate trustee and caregiver.

An alternative possibility for those with less assets but no less love for their favorite animals is the Pet Protection Agreement. This contract allows the owner to spell out care needs and secure the cooperation of a designated guardian in meeting those needs. Regardless of the option chosen, a legal agreement can protect pets from the uncertainties of life in a shelter following an owner's death.

Among other considerations important to establishing trusts for pets, owners may need to think about the current and future costs of care. Understanding state laws in this and other areas of estate planning can help ensure one's final wishes are carried out and assets protected from tax liability. An elder law attorney may be able to help guide pet owners through the decisions necessary for the pet's comfortable future.

Source: Kiplinger, "Put a Plan in Place to Ensure Pets' Care ", Eleanor Laise, June 01, 2013

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