Pet owners start establishing trusts for after they pass away

Animal shelters across the D.C. area get several new residents daily, and many times, it's because their owners have passed away.

It's something that Maryland resident Nancy Kassner worries about when it comes to the two dogs and horse she cares for - ones that may outlive her.

To get ahead of that potential situation, Nancy and many other people have begun putting together trusts for their beloved animals to make sure they are taken care of when she's not able to do it herself.

"Unlike children, they can't speak for themselves," Kassner said. "They need someone to take care of them."

Local lawyers are jumping in to help pet owners make sure their animals are taken care of properly in case they pass on. In some cases, these trusts can be worth thousands of dollars.

One Rockville-based lawyer, Mindy Felinton, says that how much you set aside for your pets depends on several factors. Those could include what type of pet you have and how long you expect it to live.

Felinton suggests that pet owners will want to think of expenses such as grooming, veterinary care, travel, food, boarding, exercise and even a funeral for their pet.

"It's important to make sure that we don't run out of money," she said. "Otherwise, they could unfortunately end up, and they often do, at the shelter or at the slaughterhouse."

That's exactly what Kassner is trying to avoid.

"I'm very relieved that I know they will have a place to be when I die," she said.

If a pet trust isn't in your budget, there are more affordable options available, one of which is a pet protection agreement that's available through the ASPCA.

The ASPCA also suggests having a third person included to manage and care for your pet after you pass away, looking into all potential sources of funding for the trust or even donating your pet to a shelter or home.

Especially in the cases of more exotic or larger animals, such as horses, the ASPCA recommends making sure that your animal is placed in a situation that is socially amenable.