Estate Planning for Your Furry Friends (Part 2)

In the last post, I began writing about including care for your pet as part of your estate plan. One option for doing this is to establish a pet trust.

A pet trust is a type of trust established for the care of one or more animals that outlive their owners. Pet trusts are recognized in all fifty states, especially for the care of animals with longer life expectancies, such as turtles or birds, as well as for animals that are more expensive to care for.

Pet trusts will remain in effect for the duration of the pet’s life. If there are multiple pets, the pet trust will remain in effect until the passing of the last surviving pet. When establishing the trust, the owner has a number of important decisions to make, and the trust is able to be fully customized.

To start, the pet owner must choose a trustee of the trust who will be responsible for overseeing the care of the animals and for paying for their expenses including food, grooming, and veterinary visits. The trustee may be the person who would physically care for the pet, but a pet owner may also choose to designate a different caregiver for the pet. If there is a different caregiver for the pet, the trustee is responsible for managing the finances for the pet and for paying the caregiver accordingly. For managing the trust, the trustee is entitled to compensation. The pet owner can also authorize payments to the caregiver for the time they spend caring for the pet. It is best to name successor trustees and caregivers if, for whatever reason, the individual(s) chosen by the pet owner cannot serve in either role.

The pet owner also needs to decide how the trust will be funded. Any amount of money may be left to the trust, and some pet owners choose to leave all of their estate in trust for the benefit of their pets. Often, pet owners who decide to do this name their family members or a charity as contingent beneficiaries to take funds that may remain in the trust after the animal passes away.

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to the care for your pet as a part of your estate plan. Your estate planning attorney can help you figure out which options are best for you and your pet.

For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.