Your Pet and Your Estate Plan

/ August 12, 2011

The handsome cat in this picture is Frank Sykora. He is my family’s cat and we love him like he is a human. Frank (or as we refer to him, Frank S.) spends most of his days sleeping and most of his nights protecting our home from critters and vermin. It is a tough job, but Frank S. is up for the tasks – day and night. Now, I don’t tell you about Frank simply to be that “cat lady” of us Epilawgers (although, I am!), but I tell you because, of course, there is some estate planning to be discussed!

Since many of you out there love your pet as much as my family loves Frank, you probably want to do whatever is necessary to ensure that your pet is taken care of, should your pet outlive you. This care can be accomplished in one of three ways.

Traditional Pet Trust

The first is through a creation of a traditional pet trust. A traditional pet trust is effective in all states. Essentially, you name the person who will be caregiver for your pet (the beneficiary) and direct a trusted person or bank (the trustee) to use property you transferred to the trust to pay for your pet’s expenses. A traditional pet trust should include quite a bit of detail besides those you are naming in the roles of trustee and beneficiary, including:

  • Detailed information identifying your pet
  • The standard of living and care you wish for your pet
  • Descriptions of the property that will fund the trust
  • Directions for distributing the remainder of the trust assets once your pet dies

Statutory Pet Trust

The second way is through a statutory pet trust. About 40 states authorize these trusts, which allow for a basic trust to be created, but do not request the pet owner to make as many decisions regarding the terms of the trust like a traditional pet trust does. Instead, state law provides the terms and only a simple provision in a Will is necessary for the trust to become effective.

Tangible Personal Property

The final way your pet could be taken care of is probably the most typical. If you have a Will, simply list your pet in your Tangible Personal Property list and who you would like to care for him or her. Granted, this will not provide monies to care for the animal, but at least you’ll know
that your pet will be going to a good home.

If you are interested in discussing the care of your pet after you pass, be sure to contact an estate planning attorney in your area. And, in case you’re wondering, no, a trust has not been set-up for Frank – yet.

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