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In Pets We Trust

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— artparadigm/Getty Images

Some animal lovers don't advertise the fact that money is part of the deal. One pet owner who wishes to remain anonymous reveals that upon her death, there are 10 people listed as potential trustees to take care of her male cat. What the new caregiver won't know at first is that the estate is instructed to award the person $10,000 if the feline is still with him or her after six months. "I want someone to take him out of the kindness of their heart and be rewarded if they keep him and fall in love with him like I did," she explains.

Others leave money to be distributed over time—monthly, annually, or as reimbursement for expenses.

Want even more security for your pet? Name someone other than the caregiver as trustee to dole out the cash. This reduces the risk of someone taking the money, but selling or destroying your pet.

That's Dane Madsen's plan. After his divorce, the 50-year-old corporate strategist from Henderson, Nev., created a living trust for his three rottweilers. "Should my ex-wife be unable to care for any of my pets, two trustees have explicit instructions to use their best judgment to find homes for my pets. The dogs should be kept together, and the new caregiver will receive $150 per month, plus money for veterinary bills and other expenses," he said. "In the event an animal falls ill, the caregiver and vet jointly decide their end-of-life management."

More of a do-it-yourselfer? For $89, Peace of Mind Pet Trust (POMPT) will e-mail you simple forms for creating a trust according to the laws of the state in which you live. The brainchild of an Illinois lawyer, Peter Canalia, the kit includes checklists, tips for funding your trust, and paperwork to create a durable power of attorney. Pet trusts can stipulate all the details an owner finds important, from the kind of food the pet eats to its medical needs and walking schedules. The Humane Society also offers a free fact sheet on estate-planning. The sheet includes advice on both wills and trusts.

Bottom line: Just as you would if you were picking a guardian for a child, talk to potential caregivers for your pets. Find someone you trust. After all, what you really want is someone who will love your pet.

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