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Setting Up a Trust for the Care of a Pet

Posted by Paul D. Woodard | Nov 07, 2016 | 0 Comments

Estate planning involves taking the steps necessary to make sure your family and loved ones will be taken care of in the future. This includes spouses, children, parents, and friends. Increasingly, this includes planning for pets as well. A pet trust is a legal document that provides for the care of a pet after an owner dies.

Pets now outnumber children in America 4 to 1. According to the American Pet Products Association, spending in the pet industry in 2015 topped $60 billion. With pets becoming a bigger part of our everyday lives, it is not surprising that people want to make sure their pets are cared for after they pass away.

While many people consider their pets to be a part of the family, under the law, pets are generally treated as property. California was one of the first states to recognize a special place for pets in estate law. Since 2009, California pet owners have been able to create a trust for the future care of their pets.

California is one of a growing number of states that provides for legally enforceable pet trusts. A pet trust, like other trusts, generally sets aside property or money for the benefit of the owner's pet in the event of the owner's death. The money in a trust is to be used for the benefit of the animals, although they may also provide payments for a designated caregiver to care for the animal. These trusts generally endure for the life of the pet.

Proper planning is crucial to making sure your pets are cared for. Without an estate plan that takes into account family pets, after the owner's death, the pets may end up in a shelter to be adopted or euthanized. Even with the best of intentions, a trust that does not conform with state law may leave a pet without a future caretaker.

A simple promise from a friend may not be enough to safeguard your pet's future. Friends, family members, or other animal lovers may promise to take care of a pet after the owner dies. However, once the time comes, circumstances may have changed. If the friend has to move or becomes ill, they may end up having to take the animal to a shelter despite their promise to care for the pet.

There are a number of issues a pet owner should consider before setting up a trust for the care of a pet. This includes choosing the pet guardian, funding the animal's care, and instructions for the trust. The pet owner should be sure to talk to the intended guardian about what type of care they expect and be sure the guardian is willing to carry out the instructions. Funding should also be considered to help the guardian pay for pet care, including providing for veterinary care as the pet ages.

If you have any questions about estate planning or creating a trust for a beloved pet, Butterfield Schechter LLP is here to help. We will answer all your questions and make sure your estate plan will take provide for all your loved ones and keep your best interests at heart. Contact our office today with any questions on how we can help you succeed.

About the Author

Paul D. Woodard

Paul Woodard practices in the areas of Employee Benefits, Employee Stock Ownership Plans, Pension and Profit Sharing Plans, ERISA, ERISA Litigation, Business Law, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), and Estate Planning.


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