Pets and animals are very important to those who own them and are often considered part of their family.
Whether it is a dog, cat, horse or parrot, these animals rely totally on their owners to care for them. When working on estate plans for pet owners, they often question how to make sure their animals are cared for after they are deceased.
Recently, I worked with a client who wanted to make sure her horses were taken care of after she died. She was able to do this by creating a trust for the care of her animals commonly known as a “pet trust.”
A pet trust can be created using a revocable living trust or a will. A person can create a pet trust for any animal that is alive during the lifetime of the person making the trust. The trust will cease after the death of the animal(s) it was created for. However, the trust cannot last longer than 90 years. For most pets, this 90-year limit will not be a problem. However, if the pet has an extremely long life expectancy, this type of trust might not work as well. After the animal is deceased, any remaining trust funds will be distributed to the remainder beneficiaries named by the person who created the trust. If there are no reminder beneficiaries named, then the remaining funds are distributed to the trust creator’s heirs at law.
The care and oversight of the animal is also important. The trust can appoint a person to make sure the trust cares for the animal as set forth in the trust agreement. If there is no person appointed by the trust, then a court can appoint a person to make sure the terms are carried out. Any person who has an interest in the welfare of the animal may request that the court appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person who has been previously appointed.
The amount of money that is put into a pet trust must be reasonable for the intended purposes of the trust. If a court finds that the amount funded to the trust is not reasonable, then the court would order the trustee to disperse the excess funds to the named reminder beneficiaries or, if none are named, then to the trust creator’s heirs at law.
It should also be understood that a pet trust is not able to reserve assets for pets when applying for public assistance programs.
Balzarini is an attorney at law for Miller Legal Strategic Planning Centers, P.A. Email your questions and comments to Miller Legal at firstname.lastname@example.org.