Pet trusts are a legally binding arrangement in which the donor (the person creating the trust) formally outlines their wishes for the care of their pet.
A few more people are involved in a pet trust, according to the article “’ Paws-ing’ to plan: How you can ensure your pet’s future well-being with pet trust planning” from The Gilmer Mirror. A trustee oversees how trust funds are dispensed, a caretaker is in charge of the pet’s care, and an enforcer makes sure the donor’s wishes are followed. Donors may appoint a caretaker of their choice or work with an agent to find someone suitable for their pet.
Unlike an informal promise to care for a pet made by a well-meaning friend or family member, the pet trust is legally enforceable, giving it more “teeth” than a verbal promise. There is nothing to stop the person you leave your pet with from doing whatever they wish, from leaving the pet at a shelter to selling the pet. With a trust, all parties are bound to use the money for its intended purposes and follow pet care instructions.
What can you ask your pet’s caretaker to do? Anything you feel is necessary. It can be as basic or as detailed as you wish. The pet could be cared for as they were by you, with the same kind of food, attention, and affection. If one is named in the trust, they can also continue to be seen by the same veterinarian.
Pet planning has become increasingly popular as more people see their pets as family members. However, pet trusts are not just for house cats or dogs. Work animals, show animals, specially trained service and companion animals, and animals used for breeding are also protected by pet trusts.
A pet trust could ensure the future of a highly trained showjumper or ensure a working dog ends up at a farm where she continues to herd sheep.
Pet trusts are essential for people with service animals. A blind person who has bonded with a seeing-eye dog may only wish another blind person to inherit a seeing-eye dog. The trust could ensure that animals who have been trained to provide emotional support or to detect health conditions like seizures should go to individuals with these same challenges.
Individuals who live with highly trained service animals should consult an experienced estate planning attorney and the organization that trained the animal to ensure a pet trust is created within the scope and requirements of the organization, as well as the wishes of the owner. The organization may be better able to place the animal while adhering to the pet trust’s requirements.
A pet trust helps protect our beloved animal companions and provides peace of mind for their humans. It should be part of your overall estate plan and regularly updated.
Reference: The Gilmer Mirror (March 23, 2022) “’ Paws-ing’ to plan: How you can ensure your pet’s future well-being with pet trust planning.”