Beloved Pet

Unfortunately, my beloved cat would not sit for a picture…

I have my beloved pet. She’s a 20-year-old Scottish Fold cat that I adopted in 2003. The last 17 years have brought many changes for us. We’ve been through a lot together. When I’ve had rough days at the office, she was always there at the end of the day to provide a little comfort and reminder that not everything in the world was terrible. Since the COVID-19 pandemic drove us all home, many others have become pet owners. While I hope that all of those pet owners also view them as a “beloved pet,” I also know that some people probably made a rash decision to suddenly adopt. Through the time in lockdown, those pets hopefully got a lot of love.

But as our society reopens, and more people begin to get their affairs in order, we’ll hopefully see a newfound interest in a pet trust. All of our little friends that helped us through should be cared for too. Since it’s not that common, here’s some information to help you consider a pet trust for your beloved pet.

What Is A Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a part of your estate plan that provides for the care and maintenance of your pets. It can be set up while you are living, or it can come into effect after you have died. Normally, the money will be set aside for the benefit of your pet. A human trustee is appointed to make payments to the designated caregiver of the pets. Especially if you have young pets, they can live for a while after you’re gone. And if you’ve ever seen the heartbreaking pictures of pets in shelters, you may not want that for your beloved pet.

Another option to consider is pet sanctuaries that are set up to take care of animals in these situations. In plans I have done for these in the past, your estate would pay a fee to the sanctuary. The sanctuary will take care of your pet for the rest of their lives.

Do I Need A Pet Trust?

You may not need a standalone pet trust. If you have a small animal and know your sibling would love to take care of it after you are gone, you can provide for that in your will. As upsetting as it may sound, most states consider pets to be property. But if you have an animal that needs more care, like a horse, then a pet trust may be necessary. Or if you have a young bird, like a parrot, with a long lifespan, a pet trust may help offset the long-term costs.

How Do I Create A Pet Trust?

The first step is to determine what the pet trust law in your state allows for. A handy chart can be found here from the ASPCA. Once you have determined that your state law allows for a pet trust, contact an attorney to help you set it up. You can add a pet trust to your existing estate plan. If you don’t have one, you can create a new one. Although not advised, you can also just skip the estate plan and do a separate pet trust. However you choose to proceed, an attorney can help you with the right document.

Anything Else I Should Consider?

You should also consider a Pet Caregiver Guide even if you don’t do a pet trust. It will allow you to make sure that your beloved pet has the right food and care in case you get sick and someone else has to take care of them. It’s not a “legal” document that is a formal part of your estate plan, but it’s a good thing to have handy.

Next Steps

If you are interested in a pet trust and don’t have a will yet, or if you have one and would like to add a pet trust to your existing one, call my office to set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you – (877) AMAYERS.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.