An overlooked element of estate planning: Pet trusts


When people hear the term “pet trust,” they may think that it is not possible to create such a trust or that a pet trust is only for extremely wealthy people with very lucky pets. In reality, pet trusts do exist and they are an important tool for every pet owner for both incapacity and death planning. They exist because there is a need to address who will care for your pet if you cannot do so.

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A pet trust can provide ground rules for how the pet should be cared for and it can provide monetary compensation to the animal’s new owner or temporary caretaker to cover vet care, food costs, and more.

When someone passes away or becomes incapacitated, on either a temporary or permanent basis, such that they can no longer care for their pet, and there is no plan in place, the animal, sadly, gets treated as property. Your pet could end up in a shelter if there is no estate plan that protects them. Most pet owners do not intentionally leave their pets out of their estate planning, they are just unaware that this type of planning exists or that pets should be included in their plan. 

What a pet trust accomplishes

The pet trust is a legal document that addresses who will care for your pet, the amount of money to be applied to the care of your pet, specific requests you have for your pet, and more. Most importantly, the trust ensures your pet will not be placed in a shelter or left alone for days on end because of your inability to come home. 

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If you have had any experience with trusts, you will notice that the pet trust is similar in nature. You must determine who the trustee will be because they will be in charge of your pet trust. The trustee could also be the designated caretaker of your pet, but they do not have to be. Pet trusts can be a trust by themselves or they can be part of your broader revocable trust. The pet can be the beneficiary or you can make a gift to the caretaker to care for your pet. 

There are several options for how to structure this type of trust and speaking with an experienced attorney is important to ensure your plan reflects your intent. Consider the peace of mind you will have knowing that your pet will have proper care, a safe home, and an owner if something suddenly happens to you.   

Discover the power of estate planning with Select Law Partners, PLLC

Estate planning is a selfless act because it is meant to protect the people (and pets) that we leave behind. Contact Select Law Partners, PLLC to schedule a consultation for more information about estate planning, drafting wills, or creating trusts. We look forward to assisting you with developing the right plan.

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Sara Josey

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