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Should I Establish a Trust for a Pet?

An elderly woman holding her pet cat.

Although legally pets are considered property, people often think of them as so much more- they are best friends, adored companions and even beloved family members. When away from their animals, people make arrangements for their pet’s care. Pet Sitters are lined up for vacations, care instructions are provided and veterinarian information is specified “just in case.” However, real thought should be given to who will care for your pet during life’s emergencies — in the event of your hospitalization or death — so that you ensure that your pet is not left alone and unattended. 

Consider who will be their caregiver?

You should consider formally designating a caregiver much like a guardian for a child, someone who is willing to step in and care for your pet when you cannot.  You should have a discussion in advance with your chosen caregiver so he or she understands in advance the responsibilities of ownership of your pet and the arrangements you have made to provide for this responsibility. Consider choosing a back-up caregiver as well. You can make these designations by a specific power of attorney for your pet or by express provision in your Last Will and Testament or creating a trust.

Establishing a Trust for your pet

By making a provision in your Will or creating a Trust for your pet, you can ensure that your pet’s comfort or care is continued in the event of your death. You can designate who is your chosen caregiver.  You should also specify an interim caregiver in case the person who ultimately will adopt your pet is not immediately available to care for him or her. 

You should also make a plan for providing the funds to care for your pet. A specific bequest of a set dollar amount to the caregiver from your assets may be appropriate so that the caregiver has the resources available to him or her to ensure that your pet is well cared for.  The funds also can be held in trust for the lifetime of your animals. You can identify each of your pets by name but you may also leave open the class naming ‘the pets you own at the time of your death’.  

Alternative arrangements should be identified in your Will or Trust if your desired home placement is not available for your pet. Consider naming an animal sanctuary as a backup so that your desires are clearly known. Finally, if you are setting up a Trust, you should name who will receive any remaining funds in the Trust after your last pet passes.  Having a plan in place affords you the security of knowing that your pet is taken care of in a manner consistent with your wishes.

At E.A. Goodman Law, we can assist you in planning for all of your loved ones, pets included. Let us design an estate plan that will bring you peace of mind knowing that everyone you care about will be taken care of after your death. 

Posted in: Estate Planning