Make sure your best friend has an estate plan too!
A pet trust is a legal arrangement that provides the care and maintenance of your companion animals in the event of your incapacity or death. A trustee will typically hold assets in trust for the benefit of your pet with payments made to the caregiver on a regular basis.
Why a Pet Trust?
Pet owners can be assured that their directions regarding their companion animals will be carried out because pet trusts are legally enforceable arrangements. Your trust can be very general or specifically describe your pet’s standard of living. Details, such as if you want your pet to visit the veterinarian four times a year, this can also be included. Since pet owners know the particular habits of their companion animals better than anyone else, they can describe the kind of care their pets should have and list the person(s) who would be willing to step in.
Benefits of Pet Trusts
In addition to providing the name and address of a trustee and successor trustee, a caregiver and successor caregiver (all of whom can be corporations and/or individuals) you will be asked to provide enough information to:
Adequately identify your pets in order to prevent fraud, such as through photos, microchips, DNA samples, or alternatively, by describing your pet as a “class”—in other words, as “the pet(s) owned by you at the time of your illness/death;
Describe in detail your pet’s standard of living and care;
Determine the amount of funds needed to adequately cover the expenses for your pet’s care (generally, this amount cannot exceed what may reasonably be required given your pet’s standard of living) and specify how the funds should be distributed to the caregiver;
Determine whether you want to compensate the caregiver;
Designate a remainder beneficiary in the event the funds in the pet trust are not exhausted;
Provide instructions for the final disposition of your pet (for example, via burial or cremation).
Pet trusts can offer pet owners a great deal of flexibility and peace of mind. In the state where no pet law exists, however, or if a companion animal has a longer life expectancy, other arrangements must be considered in combination with or in lieu of a pet trust.