Pet Trusts And Your Life Insurance Policy – 3 Questions

When pet owners in the Colorado Springs or Centennial, Colorado area come talk to us about creating a pet plan, they sometimes ask if they can use their life insurance to leave the pets money. While this is a possibility, there are some specific steps you will need to take in order to ensure your pet will be properly protected. To help explain how you might be able to use life insurance with your pet plan, here are several questions you will want to review.

Question 1: Who can I choose as my life insurance policy beneficiary?

Even though every life insurance policy differs slightly, they all work on the same basic principle. When you buy a life insurance policy you agree to pay the life insurance company a regular premium. In return for your payments, the company agrees to make a lump sum payment when you die. The person who receives this payout is known as your beneficiary.

Question 2: Can my pet receive my life insurance payout?

No. Under the law, a pet is not a person and cannot legally owned property. Even though you might purchase things on behalf of your pet, you are still the legal owner of all the things you buy. If you, for example, leave your pet an inheritance under the terms of your last will and testament, that inheritance choice will not be valid, and will pass to someone else depending on either the terms of your will or the laws of the state of Colorado. This is also why a pet cannot be your life insurance policy beneficiary.

Question 3: If I can’t select my pet as my beneficiary, is there anyway I can use a life insurance policy to care for my pet after I die?

Yes. Though your pet cannot legally own property, you can create a type of trust that can, known as a pet trust. Like a corporation, the law recognizes a trust’s ability to own property separate from the people, or the person, who created it. Further, pet trusts can continue to exist even after you die.

When you create a pet trust you set aside some of your money or property so that the trust uses that property to care for your pet after you die. A person called a trustee will manage the trust property, while a caregiver will actually care for the pet. The caregiver has the responsibility to care for the pets day-to-day needs, while the trustee will be responsible for compensating the caregiver for any expenses incurred while providing the appropriate amount of care.

If you want to fund your pet trust with your insurance policy, you can name the trust as the policy beneficiary because the trust is legally entitled to own or inherit property. However, there are some significant considerations you need to make whenever you create and use a pet trust. If you’re considering doing this, contact us as soon as possible.

Estate Planning Workshops

Next week we will have estate planning presentations that touch on the topic of pet trusts.  To register for one of these workshops, visit our workshop page on our website.  Be sure to visit our booth at the Bark at Briargate on August 16th to find more information on pet trusts.

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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