Creating a Pet Trust for Your Pets

Leaving an Inheritance to Your Pets — How to Ensure Your Furry Friends Are Safe and Happy When You Pass

In a previous blog we explained the different types of trusts you can use for estate planning. These would include revocable, irrevocable, and testamentary trusts. Today we’re going to be digging deeper into the topic of trusts and talking about a type of trust that is used to ensure proper care for your pets if you pass. This is called a “pet trust.”

We all love our pets dearly. I have a Labrador Retriever that loves to sit on my lap in the evenings. He follows me around the house like a shadow. As such, we like to call him the “velcro dog.” Because we all love our pets so much, we want to ensure that their quality of life continues if something happens to us.

What is a Pet Trust?

So what exactly is a pet trust? A pet trust is usually part of your will and last testament. As such, it is considered a testamentary-type trust. Now you can have a free-standing type of pet trust like the irrevocable trusts we discussed on our previous blog. But as a general rule, pet trusts are usually attached to your will. They are a creature of state law. Most states, including Georgia and Florida, have them and they have to be drafted in a specific way.

A pet trust can be structured in a variety of ways. Most of them are structured so that they define a caretaker for your pet(s). That caretaker is then given a certain amount of money per month that will pay for the vet bills, buy food for the pet, etc. But it can go much further than that.

One lady used a pet trust to purchase a house for her German Shepherd. Karlotta Leibenstein, a German countess, left an 80 million dollar trust for her beloved German Shepherd named Gunther III. You probably saw this in the news a while back and it made quite a few folks jealous of the dog’s massive inheritance. As you can see, these pet trusts can be quite large.

Michael Jackson had a pet trust for his chimpanzee named Bubbles. Bubbles was given 2 million dollars in this trust to ensure his care was continued after Jackson’s death. Leona Helmsley, aka the “queen of mean,” had a pest trust for her Maltese named Trouble. Trouble was given 12 million dollars upon her death. Interestingly enough, she disinherited her grandchildren, but left 12 million dollars to the dog.

Probably my favorite of all the famous pet trusts would be Miles Blackwell. Miles notably left a pet trust for his hen named Gigoo. This hen received 10 million dollars when Miles passed. Now it should be noted that this trust money was not solely for the hen, but was instructed to be used to take care of all the farm animals that he owned.

Things to Consider in a Pet Trust

So what can you do to ensure your pets are loved after you’re gone? What kinds of things do you need to consider for your pets to determine if you should create a pet trust? Here are the three most common things that are stated in a pet trust:

#1 – Who is going to be the caretaker?

You need to specifically define who is responsible for your pet if you are incapacitated or passed. This should be someone you trust to take care of your pet as you have stated in the pet trust. This should probably be someone who has pets themselves and understands how to take care of them.

#2 – Who is going to be the alternate caretaker?

You also need to list an alternate caretaker in the event that the primary caretaker is not able to fulfill their duties listed in the pet trust. This should also be someone that is trusted by you to execute all the wishes stated in the pet trust.

#3 – What are the responsibilities of the caretaker?

You need to specifically list everything that your pet needs. This would include the veterinarian preferences, food preferences, walking and other recreational activities, where the pet sleeps, etc. You’ll want to be as specific as possible here so that there are no grey areas when it comes to taking care of your pets.

Creating Your Own Pet Trust

If you’re considering creating a trust for your pets, you should go ahead and write down all the specific needs and responsibilities that your pet requires currently. We have one client who has specifically stated what vet to use for her pet, what specific type of food they eat, and the amount of recreation that they require. She stated that the pet can’t be left at home all the time and that some form exercise must be provided for them.

This type of trust is a great way to take care of your fur babies if you’re unable to take care of them yourself. If you have questions about pet trusts or any kind of trust, please complete this form or email us at info@davidsonelderlaw.com. We’ll be glad to help create a trust for any of your heirs (including pets) to ensure your assets are passed according to your wishes.

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