Some Thoughts about Pet Trusts

It's not that you look like Leona Hemsley or that your dog looks like Trouble, the Maltese who inherited millions from Helmsley.

 Pets are considered "chattel" in the US; that is they are personal property.   It is possible to plan for the care after the owner's death, and many states have pet trust laws providing a means of enforcing the terms of the trust.

Pet trusts can be testamentary, stated in a will that takes effect after the testator's death, or inter vivos by way of a stand-alone trust, created while the owner is still alive.    A pet trust, whether by will or by trust, is an effective means of providing future care for one's pets.  A stand-alone pet trust gives the additional peace of mind that the pets will be cared for in case of the owner's incapacity.   It is possible to make a provision for care of pets in a durable power of attorney, but it is not really enforceable if the agent refuses to take the affirmative action that caring for a pet requires.

 What exactly goes into a pet trust?

1. Amount of money set aside for care of the pets;

2. Designated person to serve as trustee to take the animals and to manage the trust assets;

3. Purposes for which the trust assets should be spent, such as food, toys, grooming and veterinary care;

4. How and when the trust terminates;

5. Disposition of any remaining funds after the death of the pets.

Some people are natural candidates for a pet trust, such as those who live alone or those who are concerned about what will happen to their pets should they die unexpectedly or become incapacitated.

Law Office of Eileen Guerin Swicker

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