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Trusts that will Protect Your Pet

I know people that love their animals more than their children. I know people who really only have a pet left in their family. They would be heartbroken if that animal or pet was not taken care if if they became incapacicated, either on a temporary basis or after death.

Whether you have a horse, dog, cat, parrot, or even more exotic pets such as a snake or lizard, it is possible to provide for them after you are gone or no longer are capable of tending to their needs by creating a pet trust. A pet trust is a legal arrangement that will specify how to care for and take care financially of your beloved pet and is legally recognized in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Like wills and other trusts, each state has different laws governing the creation and use of a pet trust so if you move to a different state, include your pet trust in a rewrite, reflecting the state in which you reside.

What Does a Pet Trust Include?

As the creator (grantor), you have the authority to specify the handling of assets on behalf of your pet through a trustee. You can be the Trustee during your lifetime and name an alternate upon your incapacity or death. The trustee of a pet trust specifically holds cash or other assets solely for the benefit of your named pet. Funds that are held in the pet trust will pay for their care and other related expenses, which can include but are not limited to:

  • Being able to retrive the animal from animal services

  • Provide routine veterinary check-ups

  • Grooming costs

  • Feeding and boarding costs

  • Exercise and companionship care

  • Emergency veterinary care

  • end of life care and burial

How to Plan Your Pet Trust and Appoint Your Trustee

You will have to identify and receive permission of the person you want to serve as your trustee. And you may want to identify a successor trustee in the event your pet outlives your first choice of trustee. You may need to establish multiple pet trusts if you have horses and dogs you want looked after, as their care and expenses are markedly different.

There are some typical considerations to account for when structuring your pet trust:

  • The current standard of living and care your pet receives

  • The standard of care you expect your pet’s new caregiver to provide

  • The individuals your select to act as caregivers and successor caregivers

  • How often the caregiver will provide reporting regarding the status of your pet to the trustee

  • The life expectancy of your pet

  • The activation date of your pet trust in the event you become permanently incapacitated before death

  • The probability your pet will develop serious health issues as it ages

  • Cost estimation for the pet’s caregiver needs in handling pet-related expenses

  • Once your pet passes, what will happen to any remaining money in the trust

The last consideration is of particular importance if you heavily fund your pet trust or they pass away far more quickly than anticipated. It is easiest to split any remaining money among your will beneficiaries or donate the money to a charity.

Your pet must be readily identifiable through means such as a microchip to ensure the pet trust does not suffer financial fraud or abuse of its terms. Photos and physical descriptions of your pets are also relevant, but the most secure way to protect your pet's identity is through a microchipping process.

Set Intension for Your Pet in Your Pet Trust

Make your wishes very clear as to how to care for your pet. Certain foods or specific brands of food may be a preference to include. Scheduling exercise or walks in particular places or playtimes may be a routine you wish to continue for your pet, especially as they adapt to their loss of time with you. You can include all of this guidance in a pet trust. Your estate planning attorney will help you shape your plan to cover every situation you feel relevant for your pet. Also, be sure to provide your trustee and pet's designated caregiver a copy of the pet trust and any updates to the trust as you might move or your pet may predecease you.

A pet cannot legally inherit from your will, so a pet trust becomes necessary to outline the financial and loving care your pet will need in your absence. Pets are a huge part of life, and more than ever, people want to provide for their beloved creatures. A pet trust protects your pet in the future and your peace of mind. If you’re ready to discuss how to set up a trust for your pet, we’d be happy to help. And if you are outside of Florida, please contact an experienced Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney

to assist you.

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