Don’t Forget Your Pets: Pet Trusts Provide for Furry Family

make a plan for your pet in estate planning

Every week on Ocotillo Friends or other Facebook groups I read about people’s pets: Lost, found, new, adorable, celebrating birthdays or sadly the calls for prayers in the event of an illness. I was amazed that there are those in our community who even foster betta fish! We are a community of pet lovers.

And as a community of pet lovers, we need to make plans our pets big and small in the event of a tragedy for a caregiver. Being a responsible pet owner goes beyond spaying, neutering, vaccinating and exercise.

Pet Trusts

A pet trust is a legal arrangement that provides for the care and maintenance of pets in the event of their owner’s death or incapacity. It is designed to ensure that pets are well cared for and their needs are met by providing instructions and funds for their care. Here are some key points about pet trusts:

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of a pet trust is to provide for the care, support, and maintenance of one or more pets after the owner’s death or incapacity. It allows pet owners to make specific provisions for their pets and designate a caregiver who will be responsible for their well-being.
  2. Legal Document: A pet trust is established through a legal document, typically created as part of an estate plan. The document outlines the details of the trust, including the identification of the pet(s), the appointed caregiver(s), instructions for the pet’s care, and the funds set aside for the pet’s expenses.
  3. Funding: Pet trusts require funding to ensure there are sufficient financial resources available for the pet’s care. The owner can transfer assets, such as money, investments, or property, into the trust. The designated caregiver will use these funds to provide for the pet’s needs, including food, veterinary care, grooming, and other necessary expenses.
  4. Caregiver Selection: The Humane Society recommends looking for two family members or friends who can step in and care for your pet. These folks should be treated like pet sitters in that they should be provided with all the necessary information to feed and care for your pets. “Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your veterinarian; and information about the permanent care provisions you have made for your pet. Because pets need care daily and will need immediate attention should you die or become incapacitated, the importance of making these informal arrangements for temporary care giving cannot be overemphasized.” Bottom line, the pet owner can name a specific caregiver or provide guidelines for selecting a caregiver if the initially designated person is unable or unwilling to fulfill the responsibility. It’s important to choose someone who is trustworthy, capable of providing appropriate care, and willing to take on the responsibility.
  5. Trustee: A pet trust typically involves the appointment of a trustee, who is responsible for managing the trust’s funds and ensuring they are used for the pet’s benefit according to the instructions outlined in the trust document. The trustee may be the same person as the caregiver or a different individual or institution.
  6. Duration: A pet trust can specify the duration of the trust’s existence. It can continue until the pet’s death or be terminated earlier if certain conditions are met, such as the death of the pet or exhaustion of the trust funds.
  7. Legal Enforceability: Pet trusts are recognized and enforceable under the law in many jurisdictions. However, the specific laws governing pet trusts can vary, so it’s important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in estate planning and animal law to ensure the trust is valid and complies with local regulations.

Another Tip

The Humane Society recommends the following ways to alert others that you have pets in case of emergencies:

  • Carry a wallet “alert card” that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers.
  • Post removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have. These notices will alert emergency-response personnel during a fire or other home emergency. Don’t use stickers; hard-to-remove stickers are often left behind by former residents, so firefighters may assume that the sticker is outdated or, worse, risk their lives trying to find a pet no longer in the house.
  • Affix to the inside of your front and back doors a removable notice listing emergency contact names and phone numbers.

Pet trusts provide peace of mind for pet owners, knowing that their beloved companions will be cared for even when they are no longer able to do so themselves. If you are considering establishing a pet trust, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney who can guide you through the process and help you create a legally sound and effective plan for your pet’s future.