By Libby Banks, The Law Office of Libby Banks, PLLC

Those of us with pets consider them members of our family. Along with the rest of the family, we need to make sure our pets are cared for when we can no longer do the job. How do we do this with our estate planning? It can be complicated or simple, depending on you, your pet and what you want.

A pet trust is one way to take care of a pet. The wealthy and famous often do this. The widow of the Star Trek creator left $4 million for their dogs and $1 million for their caretaker. Oprah Winfrey is rumored to have established a pet trust for her beloved dogs, setting aside $30 million for them.

Pet trusts are real and ordinary people (and their pets) can benefit from the Arizona law allowing trusts to be set up for pets. A pet trust can be especially helpful if you have a pet that can live a long time, like a tortoise. A friend of mine has a tortoise named Pepe who could live for 100 years. A cockatoo can live as long as 60 years. When your pets could easily outlive you, you should plan for them to be adopted by the right people and provide the money for their care.

Your pet may also be very expensive to keep. One example is the horse, which requires more time and money than most dogs or cats. A pet trust can be a great way to assure both that the money you leave is really used for the care of your pet, and to provide for the succession of caregivers.

The pet trust allows you to provide money for the animal as well as detailed requirements for their care – what veterinarian to use, what food they should eat, and even requirements for grooming, walks or car rides.

The pet trust can be created as a separate trust or created within your own revocable living trust. It can also be simpler, with a straightforward designation of a caregiver and a cash gift to go with each pet for their care. We often also include directions to the trustee to find a suitable new home if the original caregiver is not available.

However you wish to provide for your pets, it is important to put the instructions into a binding plan. Having a plan in place for your assets, your pets and for your own care if you are incapacitated will give you immense peace of mind.

If you are interested in putting an estate plan in place, I offer a complimentary first consultation. Give me a call at 602-375-6752 or check out my website at