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Pet Trusts Provide Pet Owners Peace of Mind

two dog paws in owners hand, top view

To many people, their pets are not only “man’s best friend” but beloved family members. These pet lovers aren’t merely pet owners, they’re proud mothers and fathers of their “fur babies.”

So to many, it is critical that caring for their pet’s well-being continues if they’re incapable of caring for them. One method to make sure of that is by setting up a pet trust.

The estate planning lawyers at The Law Firm of Brown & Jensen explore whether this option might work for you.

What is a pet trust?

A pet trust is a legal agreement that spells out, in writing, rules, and guidelines concerning the care and well-being of pets (or companion animals) if the grantor (the person who crafted the trust) becomes disabled during their lifetime, or at the time of their death.

A trustee could hold cash in a trust to use for the grantor’s pets, for example, making payments to a caregiver who has been designated specifically by the grantor, on a scheduled basis. The trustees and caregivers can be corporations and/or individuals.

Some trusts continue for the life of the pet and some last for 21 years -- whichever comes first. Some pet trusts extend past this 21-year maximum, based on companion animals or pets with longer lifespans, such as parrots, turtles, and horses.

Here is a list of laws pertaining to pet trusts in your state provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Why you need a pet trust

If your cat is finicky and only eats a specific type of cat food or your dog likes playing in a particular park, this can be spelled out in the trust agreement. Scheduled visits to the veterinarian can, as well.

Owners know their pets best and can spell out the specific care their pets should have, and designate who would be willing and able to provide that care, on that basis alone.

Pet owners can rest assured that their instructions for their pet’s care are carried out because most trusts are legally sanctioned arrangements, as we mentioned above, and specific conditions of the trust are legally enforceable.

What else goes into a pet trust?

Designating who will be the trustee and successor trustee is an important first step. So is choosing a caregiver and successor caregiver. There is more to planning a pet trust than that, however. An estate planning lawyer can make sure you:

  • Have your pets identified by taking pictures, inserting microchips, or recording DNA samples. This can help stop fraud. A lawyer can also classify your pet, i.e. “the pet or pets owned by you at the time of your illness or death.”
  • Deliver a full account of the standard of care your pet is accustomed to.
  • Have the trustee make scheduled check-ups for your pet or pets.
  • Establish the amount of money needed to cover pet care expenses adequately.
  • Specifically, stipulate how this money should be given to the caregiver.
  • Finalize the amount of money needed to manage the pet trust.
  • Assign a “remainder beneficiary.” This is needed if the funds in the pet trust are not used up. It could be used as a donation to a local animal shelter, as an example
  • Give directions for the final disposition of your pet. This could be burial or cremation, for instance.

Why you need Brown & Jensen

Whether you need to write your last will and testament, set up a trust, or make changes to current documents, an estate planning lawyer from The Law Firm of Brown & Jensen can help you.

We have years of experience and use this, and our good judgment, to help our clients craft the estate plan they need. Our attorneys proudly serve clients in Mesa, Tucson, Scottsdale, Chandler, Peoria, Goodyear, Payson, and Show Low. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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