Why Do I Need a Trust for My Pet?

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black man sits on couch with dog on his lap facing him playfully

Pets totally depend on us for their care. If you die or no longer are capable of caring for your beloved furry or feathered family member, what will happen to it? A Pet Trust is the answer.

What is a Pet Trust?

A Pet Trust is like a Trust for people – a legal entity that holds your assets for the benefit of a loved one. In the case of a Pet Trust, it allows you to set aside money and appoint people to oversee and care for your pet. 

The document lets you dictate where your pet will go, with whom, and how it will be cared for. The Pet Trust springs into action during your lifetime when needed and ensures seamless care for your pet when you pass. 

Depending on your state’s law, a Pet Trust is binding during the life of the pet or a maximum of 21 years. Some states allow the Trust to remain in force for the pet’s entire life, even beyond the 21-year limit. This is beneficial for pets such as horses that can live for 25 years or parrots that can live up to 70 years. Also, owners of exotic pets will find a Pet Trust the perfect vehicle to make sure they will be placed with the right person or organization.

Learn More: What Happens to My Pet if I Die Unexpectedly?

Reasons you need a Pet Trust

A Pet Trust is more than just about holding money. It’s about providing uninterrupted care and comfort for your companion if you’re taking off somewhere or if something happens to you. Here’s why you need a Pet Trust: 

  • Incapacitation – A serious injury or illness could render you unable to make decisions or care for your pet.
  • Legally Binding – As mentioned, a Pet Trust is a legally enforceable instrument where those named in the document are bound to adhere to your directives and terms. A verbal agreement carries no legal weight.
  • Death – If you pass away, the Pet Trust ensures your wishes for the care of your pet will be carried out.
  • Medical Emergency – If your pet has a medical emergency while you are away, the Pet Trust gives authority to the caregiver to act on your behalf to approve treatments by a vet.

Learn More: Why A Pet Emergency Card is a Good Idea

  • Give Specific Instructions – Provide specific directives and instructions about how you want the caregiver to take care of your pet, set spending limits, how the funds should be used, and what to do with any remaining monies in the Trust.
  • Peace of Mind – Of course, having the peace of mind that your pet will be cared for is utmost.

If you cannot care for your pet and you don’t have a contingency plan such as a Pet Trust, your pet could end up in a shelter or in the hands of someone you may not want. You need a legal plan to protect the welfare of your special friend.

Learn More: Don’t Let Your Pet End Up In a Shelter – How to Protect Your Pet Today & Tomorrow

How a Pet Trust works:

You, known as the grantor (settlor or trustor in some states), create the Pet Trust and place funds into it that will be used for your pet’s care. 

The Trust allows you to provide detailed, written instructions such as the type of food and treats your pet likes, grooming, daily routines, veterinary care, and medications. You can also express your wishes for the type of medical care your pet should or should not have, when to cease medical treatment, and your choices for cremation or burial after their death.

The following appointees must be chosen:

  1. Trustee – Manages the funds in the Pet Trust.
  2. Caregiver –An individual or a professional boarding service that takes custody and care of your pet.
  3. Trust Protector – Ensures the Trustee and caregiver are following the terms of the Trust. 

You may want to appoint a successor or backup Trustee and caregiver in the event the initial appointees are not able to perform their duties. If you are the Trustee, you definitely should have someone in the wings to step in if you become disabled.

Make sure the appointees you choose are trustworthy and will carry out your wishes.

Estate Planning for pets

A Pet Trust should be part of your pet’s estate plan. Along with the Pet Trust, you should have a Pet Power of Attorney that gives legal authority to a person of your choice to make decisions for your pet if you cannot.

Learn More: Understanding a Pet Power of Attorney

You may leave your pet to someone in your Will. But remember, a pet is considered property by law, and you cannot name your pet as a beneficiary to any assets in a Will. That’s where the Pet Trust comes into play.

Tips for creating your Pet Trust

  • Keep the Funding Reasonable – Remember billionaire heiress Leona Helmsley? She set up a $12 million Trust for her dog, Trouble. A court ruled the Trust was excessive after a challenge was filed against her Will and reduced the Trust to $2 million. So, keep the funding in the Pet Trust at a reasonable level to avoid any legal wrangling.
  • Choosing a Caregiver – It’s best to choose someone who is familiar with your pet. This makes it easier for both.
  • Keep Trustee and Caregiver Separate – The Trustee and caregiver should be two different people. This keeps an extra set of eyes on the Trust.
  • Name a Beneficiary – Should there be money left in the Trust, designate a beneficiary – a relative or a pet shelter – to inherit the remaining funds.
  • Clearly Identify Your Pets – If you have more than one pet, clearly identify them and their respective needs. Make sure the caregiver is capable of handling more than one pet. If not, name other caregivers and note which pet you want each one to care for. 

Gentreo has pet estate plans that can be customized for your pets. Let us help you set up your Pet Trust.

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