Yes, very much so. They’re also a terrific idea which we’ll explain below. Most importantly, a Pet Trust is quite easy to do.
The fact of the matter is that just about everyone should have a Trust, whether or not they have a pet. And since 1 out of 10 pets surrendered to shelters are there due to their owner passing away, even though in most instances the owner assumed some family member or friend would take care of their beloved pet, it doesn’t always happen. In most cases, the persons who wish to provide for the pet are just financially unable.
Pets cost a lot of money. For those of us that can’t envision a life without pets they are a luxury we don’t think twice about including in our lives. I recall reading one time that a study in London concluded that the average cost of a dog over its lifetime was around $40,000.00. We have friends who love Bulldogs and have had many in their life. They would joke about calling the dog their ‘little Honda Civic’ since that was about the cost of choosing a dog over a car. When that same dog became ill and required medical attention, they later called him their ‘little Cadillac Escalade’. These were jokes, of course, and these folks were not literally choosing a dog over a reliable vehicle, but you get the point.
This isn’t scientific, and I’m sure if I asked my wife to give me the real numbers for how much we spend on our two dogs each year she could, but here is a simple rounding. First, we’ll assume each dog is going to live only ten years. (Very likely, and hopefully, longer, but ten is easy for math.) For food each month we buy at least one 33 lb bag of dog food which retails for right around $50. Multiply that by 12 months and 10 years, you get 120 bags of food at $50 for $6,000.00.
Our pets also have pet insurance. We learned this lesson after spending over $7,000.00 when our Border Collie blew both her ACL’s. Pet Insurance costs another $50 a month. It’ll likely increase as they get older, but for this sake we’ll make it equal to the math for pet food and that comes out to another $6,000.00.
So right off the bat we’re into these two dogs for $12K. We also buy them treats, and toys, and products like kennels, food dishes, leashes, and collars. When we travel they have to be boarded. Since this is not an article about the cost of owning a pet we’ll stop there.
The point is, when you leave a pet to someone you’re also leaving a considerable financial burden. If you want the pet to maintain the lifestyle you provided, the person now assuming control may need to provide daycare or walking services. Perhaps they will need someone to pick up in the yard after the dog. Or if they rent, maybe they have to move into another place which allows pets in the first place, and those places very likely cost more. Add to all this the consideration that your dog will be getting older, and the expenses for medicines and veterinary care only go up.
So yes, Pet Trusts are real and should absolutely be considered in anyone’s estate plans. You don’t have to go all Leona Helmsley with them, either. Most of us don’t have millions of dollars to leave behind and if we do it is quite ridiculous to leave them to a pet. But $10,000, or $20,000 to be set aside to care for the wellbeing of your beloved pet is not so crazy. In fact, we’d argue it’s the right thing to do.
In our next post we’ll show you exactly how to include a Pet Trust in your Estate Plan and just how easy it is to do.