Many pet owners go well above and beyond simply exercising the minimum standard of care in taking care of their pets; they love and cherish their animal companions. Most pet owners are also aware that a beloved companion animal can easily outlive their owners and if this happens a loved pet can face a serious change in his or her level of comfort and care. Some pets may even go from being loved and respected members of the family to being abused or neglected.
A Pet Trust is a legal mechanism used to ensure your pet is properly cared in the event of your death or incapacity. A Pet Trust will give you the peace of mind that no matter what happens to you during the course of your life your beloved pet will be cared for in the event that you are no longer able to provide his or her care.
Most states classify animals as personal property and as such your pet will have to go through a probate proceeding in the event of your death. Unfortunately probate proceedings are lengthy and while most assets can wait months or years for the assets to be distributed your pet cannot wait and will need to be cared for immediately. A Pet Trust becomes effective upon the settlor’s death and the Pet Trust immediately grants possession of the pet to a specific trustee named in the trust. The trust provides the trustee with the funds to help take care of the expenses associated with the pet’s care. Only the animals named in the trust and alive at the time of the settlor’s death are granted the legal benefits associated with the trust. After the death of the named pet any remaining funds are distributed accordingly.
If you love and cherish your companion animal and wish for him or her to be properly cared for in the event of your death your estate planning should certainly reflect this wish. You should start by consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in estate law and is familiar with pet trusts. Discussing your concerns with a trusted attorney and adequately preparing for the future will give you peace of mind in knowing that your pet’s care and maintenance is addressed as part of your comprehensive estate plan.