IF YOU LOVE YOUR PET, DROP WHAT you’re doing and take the time to read this article! It is estimated that 500,000 pets are euthanized annually because their pet parents didn’t have a plan for them. Carolina Tails tracked down nationally recognized Pet Trust expert Peggy Hoyt to ask her why planning for your pet’s future means taking action now.

Carolina Tails: People plan for themselves with wills but often family pets are not thought about. Why is it important for us to plan for pets?

Peggy Hoyt: Many people believe they will outlive their pets. Others believe their friends or family will step in and take care of their pets. Estate planning and elder law attorneys are not educated about the importance of providing counsel to their clients on the importance of planning for pets. Planning for your pets takes time, energy, and resources – it isn’t a topic that is top of mind so we don’t think about it.

Carolina Tails: What exactly is a Pet Trust and how does a person plan to care for an animal family member when the person dies before the pet?

Peggy Hoyt: Wills are fairly common, yet more than 50% of Americans have done no estate planning. Interestingly, we don’t recommend using a Last Will to plan for pets. You can’t name a pet as a direct beneficiary of a Last Will, you can only make a gift to a human and hope they provide your pet with proper care. But, hope is not a plan. As a result, we recommend that loved pets be protected with a Pet Trust, created as a standalone trust or as part of a Living Trust. The delays associated with probate and the administration of a Last Will are risky when planning for our most vulnerable family members; our kids in fur coats.

Carolina Tails: Why did you write the book All My Children Wear Fur Coats?

Peggy Hoyt: I wrote All My Children Wear Fur Coats as an introduction on the importance of planning for your pets. The first edition was written when only a few states had adopted pet trust statutes. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have statutes that provide protections for our pets. Now, it is more important than ever that pet parents to become educated about planning for their pets, discover what their options are for planning, learn how to create a pet trust plan that will ensure their loved pet remains in a loving home, and secure the resources, both financial and professional, to make sure their pets will have lifetime love and care.

Carolina Tails: Organizations like Charleston Animal Society have programs in place to care for animals through a planned gift. How do these programs work and who should a reader call?

Peggy Hoyt: It makes me really happy to see that organizations like Charleston

Animal Society have created programs to help people plan for their pets. The Pet Safe Pet Trust program is a guaranteed acceptance program. When a pet’s human family predeceases the pet, or becomes incapacitated, Charleston Animal Society will accept the pet for care, regardless of health or behavior status, when the pet is registered with the program. Through a planned gift, like a minimum donation of cash or proceeds from a life insurance policy, Charleston Animal Society will have the resources to care for a cherished pet for the remainder of their life and make sure the pet is placed into a loving home or appropriate life care program. After animal care expenses, the remainder of Pet Safe gifts provide for the general care of other animals in need at Charleston Animal Society. For more information on this program, or other planned giving opportunities, you can contact Sean Hawkins, CAWA, Chief Advancement Officer at Charleston Animal Society, shawkins@charlestonanimalsociety.org.