Pet trusts: Leaving a legacy for our buddies

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Winston

About nine years ago Peggy decided that she needed a dog named Winston. We didn’t know any dogs named Winston, and I wasn’t in favor of being a pet owner, but somehow we ended up at a rescue pup adoption event. Things like this happen around Peggy.

There must have been a couple of dozen little dogs there, in their little crates. I was hoping against hope that none of them would be “the one.”

A volunteer near Peggy opened up a kennel, and said, “Would you help me out and hold this guy for a minute?” She handed her this little red dog. It looked into Peggy’s eyes, and Peggy looked into his eyes, and if ever there was a case of love at first sight, this was it.

I told Peggy, “Here, I’ll hold the dog while you go fill out the paperwork.” And that’s how we got Winston, who’s been our loyal companion ever since.

Especially as we get older, we find that our pets enrich our lives in unexpected ways. Our families are busy, busy, busy, and often they live far away. That leaves our pets for companionship. We love them; they’re part of the family. Not only do they steal your bed, they steal your heart.

We find that older people tend to adopt older dogs. They are often easier to care for than puppies, and they are grateful for a loving home, plus we empathize with their plight.

The heartbreaking side of this story is that owners often neglect to make provisions for their pets should they become incapacitated or die. Our friend Jane Maxon, a realtor with Fetchyouahouse.com, tells the story of a dog who was left alone when Mom died. Jane was selling the house. She told us that someone came by to feed Mom’s dog once a day, but since she didn’t leave any instructions in her will, no one knew what else to do with him. Eventually the son took the dog to the vet to be euthanized. By then the poor beast was matted, confused and upset, but otherwise healthy. Fortunately, one of the vets took pity and found it a good home. Not all stories like this have a happy ending. Too many pets are left to chance when their loving owners pass away.

One great solution is a pet trust. A pet trust as part of your estate plan makes sure your buddies are cared for. They ensure that enough money is set aside to cover the costs of care, and you can provide specific instructions, and designate a particular person or organization to take over. Winston has his own pet trust.

You might also consider making a charitable gift to one of the many organizations that provide for the treatment and care of abandoned pets. As part of your estate plan, this is a wonderful way to leave a lasting and meaningful legacy.

I don’t know much about an afterlife, but I like to believe that our pets meet us at the gates of heaven. They go up to St. Peter and whisper, “You know, he was pretty good to me. He took me for walks, fed me and gave me treats. I miss him. I think you should give him a break and let him in.”

— By Ralph Sanders, Sanders Law Group

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