What is a Pet Trust?
Do you cherish your pets like parents cherish their children? Do your pets rely on you like children rely on parents? If you answered yes to these questions, then a Pet Trust may be what you need as part of your estate plan.
Where will my pets live when I am no longer around? Who will take care of my pets? How will that person provide for my pets? If you are wondering about these questions, then a Pet Trust may be the solution.
A Pet Trust is a Trust whereby you provide for your pets upon your death or incapacity. You cannot leave money directly to your pets but you can leave money either to someone or in a Trust so that somebody can be paid to help take care of the pets for you. If you set up a Pet Trust, pursuant to EPTL 7-8.1, you decide who will care for your pets, how much money to allocate for such care, and whether to leave additional money for the caretaker in appreciation for their taking in your pet and for the care necessary to maintain the pet. You provide the instructions and guidelines just like you would if you were leaving money to other loved ones.
The Pet Trust can be set up in either a Will or a Trust.
Why Do I Need a Pet Trust?
If you leave money to someone in your Will, with the desire that they use the money to care for your pet, they are under no obligation to actually use the money for your pet. You are relying on the “honor system” as we like to put it. How can you make sure that the person you are designating to care for your pet will actually use the money for your furry beast?
By creating a Pet Trust, whether within your Will or outside your Will, the person you designate to care for your pets will be under an obligation to use the money for your pets and not themselves. There will be accountability with a Pet Trust. Your caretaker will be under a fiduciary obligation to care for your pets in accordance with your wishes as set forth in the Trust. You can set forth all the strings and parameters you want in the Pet Trust.
What happens if you become incapaciated during your lifetime, before your death? What will happen to your pet then? Well, if you create a Pet Trust, outside of your Will, you can provide for your pet in case you become incpaciated. Also, without a Pet Trust in place, upon your incapacity or passing, it may be a long time before someone takes in your pets to care for them. They may end up with someone you would not have picked yourself or unfortunately, even in a shelter.
If you are concerned about having your pet provided for immediately, you may want to consider a Living Pet Trust as opposed to having the Trust created within your Will.
When you establish a Pet Trust you are maintaining the control and making the decisions, much like when executing a Will. You decide what happens, the way you would want, not someone else deciding for you. You can decide whether you want the caretaker to get money directly or whether you want the trustee to make payments directly to vendors. Also, if you create a Pet trust you will be able to appoint a successor caretaker, in case something were to happen to the original caretaker. Otherwise, if your pet survives the original caretaker, his or her beneficiaries will be making the decisions about what will happen to your pet.
How do I Create a Pet Trust?
In order to create a Pet Trust, pursuant to EPTL 7-8.1, you should let your estate planning attorney know that you have a pet and that you want to provide for such pet upon your incapacity or passing. Thereafter, your attorney will set forth the guidelines of the trust within your estate planning documents, such as your Last Will & Testament or Living Trust.
Things to consider when thinking about a Pet Trust are:
- who you want to care for your pets,
- how much money you want to leave for this purpose,
- do you want to leave money for the expenses associated in caring for your pets, or also money to the caretaker,
- who will be in charge of the money,
- who will monitor the caretaker and enforce the provisions of the trust if the caretaker fails to do what is expected of him or her.
- Who will be the Trustee, or, the person “in charge of the Trust.” (This person can be the same as the caretaker, however, if you decide to have the same person as caretaker and Trustee, you will lose out on the “checks and balances” unless you appoint a monitor. As with any fiduciary, you should appoint someone whom you trust.)
What Will Happen to my Furry Friends Without a Trust?
If you do not have a Pet Trust, and you leave your pet to someone in your Will, they will inherit your pet. If your Will is silent on the issue, your pet will be distributed to your residuary beneficiaries as part of your property. If you do not have a Will, then your pets will pass to your heirs through the State’s intestacy rules. Whoever cares for your pet after your passing, will be the one making decisions, not you.
We can help you prepare a Pet Trust that will keep your pets safe and secure for the rest of their lives.
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