Morris County & Bergen County Pet Trust Attorney
Although estate planning is essential for people to achieve their goals and provide for their loved ones, many also consider their pets to be members of the family. Sadly, shelters are filled with animals that lost their homes when their owners became incapacitated or passed away. While many assumed that other family members or friends would care for the pet, they have no obligation to do so.
At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, we can assist you with providing for the care and maintenance of your faithful companion by creating a legally enforceable pet trust. Either set up as a stand-alone trust or as part of a revocable living trust, a pet trust can establish an immediate plan for the care of your pet if you become incapacitated and also determine how your pet should be treated after you pass on.
How does a pet trust work?
In some respects, a pet trust is similar to many other estate planning trusts in that there is a grantor who creates the trust, which generally designates both a trustee and a caregiver. The trustee is legally responsible for managing the funds and overseeing the caretaker while the caregiver acts as the “beneficiary” of the trust.
The trustee should be someone who is trustworthy, financially responsible and able to manage money; many individuals designate the same person they have named as the trustee of a living trust. If no trustee has been named or if the designated Trustee is unwilling or unable to serve, then any person with an interest in the pet’s welfare can ask the court to appoint a Trustee.
Similarly, it is essential for the caregiver to be willing to care for the pet and capable of providing it with a safe home.
Highly customizable, a pet trust can include special instructions for the care of your pet, including:
- Provisions for financial resources
- Dietary preferences
- Grooming instructions
- Veterinary care
- Socialization of the pet
- Boarding instructions
It is also necessary to fund the trust either by setting aside a specific dollar amount from the estate or through a life insurance policy that names the trust as the beneficiary. Typically, payments to the designated caregiver will be made on a regular basis.
The amount of money that will be needed depends on the type of pet, the annual cost of care, its age and life expectancy. Other factors to consider include the need for extended veterinary care or surgery, compensation for the caregiver and trustee, costs to administer the trust as well as end of life costs such as burial or cremation.
Under New Jersey law, a pet trust terminates when no living animal is covered by the trust, or at the end of 21 years, whichever occurs earlier. Any remaining funds can either be left to a remainder beneficiary such as the caretaker as a reward for his or her service or a charity. If no provisions are made, the funds pass to the grantor’s estate.
Ultimately, there are a number of benefits to establishing a pet trust. First, a pet trust becomes effective immediately upon your death or if you become incapacitated. In addition, a properly formed pet trust will help to prevent or withstand legal challenges from family members who disagree with your decisions. Most importantly, you will have peace of mind knowing that your pet is in good hands.
Why Call E.A. Goodman Law
Although New Jersey has recognized pet trusts as legally enforceable estate planning instruments in 2001, many attorneys are unfamiliar with how such trusts operate. At the same time, trusts are complex legal documents that may not be valid if they are not properly prepared.
At E.A. Goodman Law, we care about our clients, and we’re animal lovers too. We’re here to help you provide for your faithful companion if the time comes when you are unable to do so.
We have extensive experience drafting a wide range of trusts and other essential planning documents and are knowledgeable in laws governing pet trusts. We are keenly aware that your pet is an important member of your family, but you can’t leave money to pet. If you want to make sure your dog, cat, horse or other pet is well-cared for when you are no longer around, contact our office today.