The child/pet connection is often very strong, McManus says. "There are sometimes relationships where the pet comes before he children," he says. "Sometimes, instead of having one more child a couple will get a pet instead. For many people their pets -- cats, dogs or whatever -- are their children."
A more common scenario is for older people, who either never had children or whose kids are grown, who want to ensure quality care for their late-in-life companion.
There best route is to establish a trust to make sure a cherished pet gets "the best food, regular grooming and a top veterinarian," McManus says, adding that the execution of these tasks, and managing the assets, may exceed the role and capabilities of a traditional pet guardian and require a separate trustee.
The challenge is that there is no way to know for sure of pet needs and expenses, especially if there is a major illness. There also needs to be a plan in place for when the pet dies.
There are several options. One is to overfund a trust based on realistic estimates and "when the pet dies any surplus is given to the pet guardian to reward their service or a family member," McManus says.
Another route, for wealthier people, is to establish a charitable foundation in the pet owner's name that could make gifts and also donate directly to animal-related charities. Unused money from a pet's trust could be routed into such a foundation, perhaps even in the name of the pet itself.
Burial arrangements are also top-of-mind for many animal lovers.
"Today, pets are not allowed to be buried in the classic sense of a human cemetery plot as they were in ancient times, hence creative measures such as pet cremation and inserting the pet's remains in the casket with other memories is preferable," McManus says.
"One thing that is often overlooked, particularly for an elderly person, is what happens if you become incapacitated," he adds. "You want to make sure your power of attorney steps in to provide direction as to how the pet should be cared for. All of the first-class amenities are often not included. It is worth bringing up the topic [and having a plan in place] until you recover."
One other potential snag is the hurt feelings of relatives who cannot appreciate money being earmarked for a pet.
"Where an objection would arise is when a relative comes out of the woodwork later on and say, 'What's this all about, this was my Aunt Millie and that's my money.' Well, the answer is you haven't seen Aunt Millie in 20 years and her pet was with her through it all, that's why you didn't get anything," McManus says.
-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
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