Whether you are the Tiger King or a "crazy cat lady," whether you have fields full of cattle or a backyard chicken coop, whether you breed pedigreed dogs or rescue mutts, or whether you keep snakes or tarantulas or other creepy-crawlies, you need to make provision for the care of your animals during your incapacity and after your death.
So-called "pet trusts" are underutilized for this purpose, in part because attorneys don't always advise about caring for the non-human members of your family. The word "pet" is a bit misleading as well, as not all animals under your care are "pets." No matter what we call it, it's important for you to know that you can provide ongoing maintenance and support for your animals.
What is a pet trust?
A pet trust is a separate trust created specifically to provide ongoing care, maintenance, and support of your animals - whether they be beloved pets, income-producing animals for showing or breeding, working animals for farms or other business interests, or animals raised to provide food. The trust holds designated property and provides specific instructions to caretakers, trustees, and trust enforcers, letting them know how you wish for your animals to be cared for and providing them the means to do so. A pet trust can, and should, be funded with sufficient assets not only to care for your animals but also to compensate those given the responsibility to provide such care.
When is a pet trust created?
You can always create a separate pet trust during your lifetime, but this it not common. Most people who want to provide ongoing support for their animals make provisions in their revocable trust or will that creates the pet trust at their death.
How is a pet trust funded?
Your pet trust can hold different types of assets - cash, life insurance proceeds, real property, tangible assets required for their care, such as saddles and tack for horses or milking equipment for dairy animals. We do not recommend funding the pet trust with tax-deferred retirement assets, but just about anything else is a good fit to fund a pet trust.
Who takes care of my animals?
There are three legal offices in a pet trust - a caretaker, a trustee, and an enforcer. The caretaker and trustee may be the same person, and the enforcer, while allowed by law, is not required. The caretaker has physical possession of the animals and has the duty to provide for their direct care. The trustee administers the funds and makes them available to the caretaker for the animals' benefit. The enforcer, if named, has the authority to make sure the caretaker and trustee do their jobs, as the animals are not able to speak for themselves. The enforcer, essentially, provides the "voice" of the beneficiaries.
Here's the stuff we always put at the end: If you want to know more, we would love to talk with you about it. Best part, the conversation about how it could benefit you doesn't cost anything. Call us at (918) 770-8940 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation. Disclaimer: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship, and it is not formal legal advice. This is for information purposes only. It is always best to speak with an attorney about your questions, assets, concerns, and needs.