Pets are often parts of our families just like any person. They live with us, and we provide love, affection and care. So, what happens to Fluffy or Fido after you pass on? As much as our pets are important to us, you probably haven’t made plans for their care. Here’s where the pet trust comes in.
What is a pet trust?
According to the ASPCA, a pet trust is “a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals in the event of a grantor’s disability or death.” This means that it functions much like any other trust, but the funds within it are specifically earmarked to care for your pet or pets.
A trustee will hold a lump sum of cash or assets that will be disbursed to a caregiver on a regular basis. You can set up a trust to last a set amount of years, or simply the lifetime of the pet. This can be useful for pets with longer lifespans, like turtles, horses, or parrots.
Having a trust can give you peace of mind that your pet will be well taken care of. In fact, it is a legally enforceable guarantee of this. You can also be very specific in your trust, and lay out details about your pets standard of life and care that need to be met.
You can also set up your trust to take effect during your lifetime, in case an emergency or medical condition leaves you incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for your pet.
Considerations and concerns
Pet trusts are not valid in all 50 states, and trusts are generally more complicated financial instruments. Because of this, it is advisable to consult with an attorney as you’re establishing your trust.
Here are some other things to consider before going in to speak to your lawyer.
- As in any trust, you should choose your trustee carefully. However, a pet trust comes with the added complication of choosing a caregiver for your pet. Be sure to have conversations with whoever you’ve chosen, and ensure they’re willing and able. Your choice of caregiver should be revisited every few years, just to ensure there is no change in circumstances (an allergic child, a pet-averse apartment, etc.)
- You should be sure to carefully identify your pets in the trust agreement, providing photos or microchip data, in order to prevent fraud.
- Prepare a detailed document where you talk about your pet’s care. Think about food type and frequency, vet visits, and park visits.
- As you’re preparing your document, also think about how much a year of care will cost for your pet. This, plus your pet’s life expectancy, will give you a good idea for how much should go into your fund. Don’t forget to consider the costs associated with administering the trust either! Your attorney should give you a better sense of what those are.
- You should also designate a final beneficiary, in case the funds in the trust are not exhausted.
Once your pet trust is set up, you can rest easy that Fido and Fluffy will be well cared for, no matter what happens to you.