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A Pet Trust: The Latest Trend

Edited by Rory Clark

Those who consider our companion animals to be family members understand our obligation to these dependent creatures. It is critical to ensure that their care and comfort are not interrupted if we become unable to care for them ourselves. Establishing a pet trust is one way to prepare for such an occurrence. 

According to bestfriends.org, the caretaker’s death is a leading cause of cats and dogs being surrendered to shelters; nearly 11% of all cats and dogs in shelters are there due to their owners’ deaths. That’s 594,000 pets in US shelters. This due to the lack of planning for them and no friend or family member willing to take them in.

A Pet Trust for a Pet’s Well-Being

To establish a Pet Trust, both a trustee and a caretaker must be named (who may or may not be the same person). The designated caretaker will become the legal owner of your pet. They are responsible for carrying out your wishes regarding the care and maintenance of your pet.

The trustee will handle the money. They will distribute the funds to the caretaker for your pet in the manner you have dictated. It is essential to select a backup for both positions if your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve. When choosing a caretaker, you should think about the person’s living situation, allergies, an affinity for a particular kind of animal, etc.

The trust will last for the pet’s life or 21 years, whichever comes first, depending on the state in which it is established. This is especially beneficial for companion animals with longer life spans than cats and dogs, such as horses and parrots.

How Does The Pet Trust Help?

Since most trusts are legally enforceable, pet owners can rest assured that the trustee will follow their instructions regarding their companion animal (s). A trust can be exact. For example, if your cat prefers a specific brand of food or your dog enjoys daily walks in the park, their owners can specify this in a trust agreement. 

A trust established during the pet owner’s lifetime can provide instructions for the animal(scare )’s in the event of the pet owner’s incapacity (sick, injured, unconscious, etc.). Because pet owners are the best experts on their companion animals’ unique behaviors, they can describe the type of care their pets should receive and identify the person(s) who would be willing to provide it.

Preparing Your Documents

Provide complete and accurate information, including the name and address of each trustee, successor trustee, and caregiver. You will be required to provide sufficient information to:

  • Provide direction for healthcare, exercise and diet needs, and preferred veterinarian care
  • Prevent fraud. Correctly identify your pets, such as through photos, microchips, DNA samples, or by describing your pet as a “class”. That is, as “the pet(s) owned by you at the time of your illness/death”;
  • Provide your pet’s standard of living and care.
  • Require that your pet(s) are inspected by the trustee regularly.
  • Determine the necessary funds to cover all expenses related to your pet’s care. Describe how the funds should be allotted to the caregiver.
  • Manage the pet trust, determine the amount of funds required to cover expenses.
  • Determine a remainder beneficiary if the funds in the pet trust are not depleted.
  • Provide guidance for your animal’s final disposal (for example, burial or cremation).

Planning For The Future

At The Legacy Elder Law Center, we answer many questions to give you peace of mind and legal measures that you can take to ensure that your pet(s) will be taken care of Contact us today.

About the author

Rory Clark

Rory has more than 30 years’ experience practicing elder law, estate planning, asset protection, Veteran’s affairs, and special needs planning. Through his personal journey, Rory not only understands the complex legal issues involved as a professional but also the intense emotional issues as a caregiver.