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Pet Trust

Your pet is an important member of your family. But in the eyes of probate law, pets are personal property, much like your car. That’s why you can’t leave money to your pet. You can mention your pet in your will, but there’s no guarantee your wishes will be followed. If want to ensure your companion is cared for after you’re gone, a pet trust could be just the solution.

Pet Trust

A pet trust is a legally enforceable arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals. This is an important part of estate planning law that you can use to protect your pet after you are gone. When deciding if a pet trust is right for your family, consider the following information.

Benefits of a Pet Trust

It’s a common misbelief that providing for your pets in a will is enough to guarantee their continued care. Remember, wills are for distributing property. Once that task is done, there’s generally no ongoing supervision. So if you make provisions for a beloved dog in your will, the person receiving your companion is under no obligation to keep or care for your dog. But with a pet trust, the trustee has a legal duty to carry out your instructions.

There are many factors to consider when deciding if a pet trust is the right option for you including:

  • A properly formed pet trust can better withstand legal challenges from family members who are unhappy with your decisions.
  • Your pet’s care instructions can be very specific, including details such as the type of cat food that will be purchased, or the how many times a day your dog needs to be walked.
  • A pet trust is effective immediately upon your death. A will can take weeks or even months to execute.
  • You can require periodic inspections of your pet to ensure the caregiver is doing his or her job.
  • A pet trust can apply if you become incapacitated. For example, if you are moved to a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you and your pet can move together.
  • You can control the timing of payments made on your pet’s behalf. Promise made by friends and family often fail. It may not be wise to give your pet’s guardian all the money upfront. If the guardian has a change of life issue, your pet may face an uncertain future.

How a Pet Trust Works

A pet trust has many of the same features of other estate planning trusts. There is a grantor who creates the trust, and a trustee who holds the trust assets “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets. The terms of the trust can be as detailed as you wish, specifying preferences such as food or frequency of trips to the groomer.

Typically, payments to a designated caregiver will be made on a regular basis. The trust can continue for the life of the pet, although some states place a 21-year cap on the trust’s duration.

Depending on the laws of your state, the trust can continue for the life of your pet. Be aware that a few states terminate pet trusts after 21 years. This is an important consideration for long-living pets such as parrots.

You will need to have the following information before you draft your pet trust.

Select a Trustee

Generally, a trustee can be any adult of sound mind, or an organization or institution such as a law office. Check with your state’s laws to determine specific requirements. Before you select your trustee, make sure to review the requirements of the job and understand what the cost, if any. It is a good idea to select an alternate trustee, even if your first trustee is an organization.

Select a Caregiver

Decide if your pets should go to one person or distributed to different people or organizations. Select at least two caregivers in case their circumstances change during your pet’s life. Discuss the terms of the trust with potential trustees before they agree to the position. Keep in touch with them over the years to remind them of their duties.

Properly Identify Pet Beneficiaries

Your pets can be identified by photos, licenses or microchips or by “class”. For example, “the pet(s) owned by you at the time of death/incapacitation.”

Pet Care Instructions

Include detailed information about your pet’s standard of care including frequency of vet and grooming visits, food preferences, sleeping arrangements, and exercise. Require inspections of the pet by the trustee. Determine what would trigger the pet being removed from the caregiver and identify the alternate caregiver.

Determine Financial Need

In addition to the cost of care for your pet(s), you’ll need to cover the cost of administering the trust. Determine how the funds will be distributed to the caregiver.

End of Pet Life Instructions

Consider when to terminate your pet’s medical care when faced with a terminal illness. The decision to terminate can be a joint decision shared by the vet, the trustee and the caregiver. Remember to state how your companion will be handled upon passing.

Remainder Beneficiary

Select a remainder beneficiary in case there is money remaining in the trust after your pet dies. The beneficiary can be a person or an organization.

Free Consultation with a Pet Trust Lawyer

If you are here, you may want a Pet Trust or you need help with a Pet Trust Administration in Utah.
If so, please call us for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

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Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.