If a pet owner is unable to provide the required care to his or her pet, a Pet Trust will ensure that there are funds available to care for the pets. A Pet Trust is as an asset protection trust created by the pet owner to pay for the pet's food, veterinary visits, pet sitting, walking services, and grooming, as well specifying the way the pet should be cared for and who will be responsible for the pet's care.
Typically, a Pet Trust appoints a caregiver and backup caregiver who will be responsible for the pet's care. The Pet Trust may also appoint a trustee to manage the trust assets and ensure that the caregiver is providing the required care for the pet. After the pet dies, the remaining money (if any) will usually go to charity, the pet's caregiver, or a member of the family. The Pet Trust will ensure that a beloved pet receives the same care and attention that it received when it was under the care of its original owner.
Preparing a will that gives your pet to a particular person will not guarantee that your pet receives the continued care to which it is accustomed. Because a pet is treated as property, once the pet is given to a particular person in your will, there will be no supervision of the care your pet receives. Therefore, even if a person has made provisions for a beloved pet in a will, it does not mean that a person receiving the pet has any ongoing obligation to care for the pet properly. With a Pet trust, the trustee will have a legal duty to carry out the instructions of the pet owner when it comes to the pet's care.
There are number of features or a pet trust that could make it a suitable option:
Similar to other trusts, a trust attorney can draft the pet trust document according to your wishes. A Pet Trust will include the appointment of a trustee and successor trustee, caregiver and successor caregiver, and detailed instructions about the management of trust assets and car of the pet. When structuring the Pet Trust you should consider the following:
Like estate planning trusts, Pet trusts also have a grantor and a trustee. A Pet Trust may also name a separate caregiver who will care for the pet and receive regular payments from the trustee for the pets care. Generally, the trust will continue to exist for the pet’s entire life. However, some states may limit the trust's existence to 21 years after the death of the pet's owner. An experienced trust attorney will assist you with structuring a trust that will meet the needs of long-living pets such as parrots or horses. You should consider the following before meeting with an attorney to draft a Pet Trust:
The pet owner should decide whether the pet should be cared for by a single person or multiple people. The selection of a caregiver and one or more successor caregivers is an important consideration because over the life of a pet, a caregiver's circumstances could change in such a way that they would be prevented from caring for your pet. The pet owner should discuss the terms of the trust with the caregivers before finalizing the positions. In addition, it is important to remain in touch with the potential caregivers to remind them of their duties if your pet is still alive when you pass away.
While choosing a trustee, it is important to select a reliable person with the ability to make good decisions. A pet owner can also choose a professional, like a lawyer or accountant, to act as the trustee. The trustee should understand the requirements of their position and the trustee's compensation should be included in the trust documents.
Essentially, the pets are the beneficiaries of the trust, so you must identify the pets clearly in the trust documents. They can be identified by class, all my dogs; pet license numbers; photos; or microchip numbers. If you have many pets, you may also include in the trust documents a general description like “all of the animals owned at the time of my incapacitation or death .”
A Pet Trust should include standards of care for your pet that the caregiver must follow. Standards of care are likely to include the frequency of grooming and vet visits, sleeping arrangements, food preferences, and exercise schedules. The instructions for care may also require the trustee to inspect the pet on a regular basis or obtain reports from a specific veterinarian.
The pet owner needs to determine the estimated cost for the care of the pet, caregiver compensation, trustee compensation, and trust administration. The pet owner can then fund the trust with enough assets to care for the pet for the pets entire life.
It is important to consider and provide instructions to the caregiver and trustee if the pet ever faces a terminal illness. You may decide that the decision to terminate your pet's life must be the joint decision of a veterinarian, the caregiver, and the trustee. The trust should also provide instructions about how the pet's remains should be handled after the pet dies.
It is essential to choose a remainder beneficiary that will receive any remaining trust assets when the pet dies. A remainder beneficiary may be a person, multiple people, a charity, or organization.
Deciding if a Pet Trust is right for you can be a difficult decision. If you decide a Pet Trust is right for you, you will need the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney to guide you through the process. To schedule a consultation with our experienced Colorado estate planning attorneys, please use the contact link on our website.