In a recent blog, we discussed pet owner’s options for naming their pets as beneficiaries in their wills. Another option for pet owners to provider for their pet after death is creating a pet trust. Pet trusts offer a wide variety of options to provide for the pet and can be used in conjunction with a will. Pet trusts are created during the grantor, in this case the pet owner’s, life, and can take effect immediately, or upon death of the grantor.
Unlike wills which leave interpreting some provisions up to the discretion of probate court, trusts are legally enforceable agreements that are carried out according to the provisions of the document. All the traditional rules of trust administration will be in effect for a pet trust as they are for any other trust. There will be a trustee named which will carry out the best interests of the maker of the trust and will be able to enforce the terms of the trust in court if necessary.
One feature of a pet trust that is distinct are the caretaking options. When establishing a pet trust, the maker can name who will take care of their pet in the event of incapacitation, who will have immediate custody upon your death, and how the animal is cared for.
Generally, someone who is already familiar with the pet is named in the trust as caretaker and an amount of money is given to them to care for the pet, in the event they accept to take care. Most owners estimate the proper amount by taking into account the pet’s age, breed, condition and general health. With that being said, the maker of the trust cannot gift unrealistic amounts of money for the care of a pet, or they may be subject to challenge by the court.
In the event you do not have a substantial amount of money anticipated to leave for your pet’s care or your pet is older, but you want to make sure they are taken care of, a pet protection agreement is also available. Pet protection agreements are a cheaper option that are immediately available to everyone. This contract ensures that someone is named to take care of the pet and also leaves instructions, creating a legally binding agreement between you and the pet guardian.