Secure Your Pet’s Future: The Importance of Pet Trusts

Gabriel Katzner - March 15, 2024 - Estate Planning

Your pet is part of your family, and their care should be addressed as part of your comprehensive estate plan. A pet trust is a legally enforceable arrangement that provides for the care of your pets in the event of your death or disability.

When you establish a pet trust, you fund your trust and write instructions on caring for your pet. The trust is designed to care for your pet’s needs for the rest of its life as long as the trust does not run out of assets. All 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize pet trusts, but state laws vary on the requirements.

You can create a pet trust at any point during your lifetime, and the pet trust will terminate upon your death.

What is a pet trust?

Establishing a trust involves three key roles: the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiaries. When you establish a pet trust, you are the grantor. You will fund the trust and provide the trust instructions with the help of your estate attorney.

You can appoint yourself as the trustee of your pet trust and hold this role throughout your lifetime. Since the primary goal of a pet trust is to care for your pet after you pass away, you will also need a successor trustee. The trustee will be responsible for following your trust instructions and making payments to the people caring for your pet.

Technically, your pet is the beneficiary of the trust. However, your pet will need a protector to act on their behalf and ensure that your instructions are followed and that the trust’s funds go toward their intended purpose. Depending on which state the trust is established in, it will continue for 21 years or the life of your pet, whichever comes first.

What are the benefits of a pet trust?

Since a pet trust is a legally enforceable arrangement, many pet owners prefer it over other planning methods because it ensures the owner’s wishes are carried out.

Potential benefits of a pet trust include:

  • It allows you to appoint a trustee and name a caretaker who will be responsible for your pet’s care.
  • A pet trust provides instructions for your pet’s caregiver, including favorite foods, toys, and sleeping arrangements.
  • A pet trust can provide provisions for regular check-ups, emergency medical care, and even end-of-life care.
  • Pet trusts are legally enforceable.
  • A pet trust can be designed to meet your pets’ individual needs.
  • A pet trust takes effect upon the grantor’s death. Your caregiver does not need to wait for probate to get funding.
  • A pet trust provides flexibility, allowing it to respond to changes in your pet’s needs over time.
  • Family members who may be unhappy with your plans will have a harder time challenging a pet trust than a Will.
  • Pet trusts can go into effect when you can no longer care for your pet.


Questions to consider when establishing a pet trust

When establishing your pet trust, consider all of the following:

  • Identify your pet using photos, microchips, DNA samples, etc.
  • Provide veterinarian care records.
  • Determine how much money caregivers will need to care for your pet.
  • Determine the additional cost of administering your pet trust.
  • Provide detailed instructions about your pet’s care.
  • Stipulate how often the trustee should check on your pet.
  • Designate a remainder beneficiary in case your pet should pass away before all the funds in the trust are exhausted.
  • Provide instructions for end-of-life care for your pet.

Why not use a Last Will and Testament instead of a pet trust?

The law sees pets as personal property. You can leave your pet to a caregiver in your Will, but they have no legal requirement to provide the care you request. Once your pet is sent to live with its new caregiver, there is no supervision by a trustee.

Do you want to ensure that your pet is cared for after you can no longer do so? If you are interested in establishing a pet trust, schedule a call with us at 855.631.3457 to learn more about how to protect those most important to you.


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