Can a Trust Be Created to Protect a Pet?

Home » Blog » Can a Trust Be Created to Protect a Pet?
Posted on: October 11, 2022 | by: Graber & Johnson Law Group, LLC
With the largest spike in mortality in the United States in a century, following the onset of the pandemic, providing for one’s pets after death has become a growing topic of conversation for many animal lovers across the country.

For one woman in the middle of preparing for a no-contest divorce, the idea of a pet trust was a novel one. She was estranged from her sister and didn’t want her ex-husband to gain custody of her seven horses, three cats and five dogs if she died or became incapacitated. Who would care for her beloved animals?  How long will your pet live? A parrot could live for 80 years, which would need an endowment to invest assets and earn income over decades. A long-living pet may need a succession of caregivers, as a tortoise with a 150 year lifespan will outlive more than one caregiver.

The solution, as described in the article “Create a Pet Estate Plan for Your Fur Family” from AARP, was to form a pet trust, a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of companion animals in the event of a person’s disability or death.

Creating a pet trust and establishing a long-term plan requires state-specific paperwork and funding mechanisms, which are different from leaving property and assets to human family members. An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to ensure that the protections in place will work.

Shelters nationally are seeing a big increase in animals being surrendered because of COVID or people who are simply not able to take care of their pets. Suddenly, a companion pet accustomed to being near its human owner 24/7 is left alone in a shelter cage.

When pet parents have not made plans for their pets, more often than not these pets end up in shelters. However, not all animal shelters are no-kill shelters. In 2021, data from Best Friends Animal Society shows an increase in the number of pets euthanized in shelters for the first time in five years.

For pet owners who can’t identify a caregiver for their companions, the best option may be to find an animal sanctuary or a shelter providing perpetual care.

The woman described above had a pet trust created and funded it with a long-term care and life insurance policy. The trust was designed with a board of three trustees to check and balance one another to determine how the money will be allocated and what will happen to her assets. Her horse property could be sold, or a long-term student or trainer could be brought in to run her barn.

It is not legally possible to leave money directly to an animal, so setting up a trust with one trustee or a board is the best way to ensure that care will be given until the animals themselves pass away.

The stand-alone pet trust (which is a living trust) exists from the moment it is created. A dedicated bank account may be set up in the name of the pet trust or it could be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance or retirement plan.

A pet trust can also be set up within a larger trust, like a drawer within a dresser. The trust won’t kick in until death. These plans prevent the type of delays typical with probate but is problematic if the person becomes incapacitated.

If a trust is created as part of another trust, there can still be delays in accessing the month, if the pet trust is getting money from the larger trust.

With costlier animals likes horses and exotic birds, any delay in funding could be catastrophic.

Most attorneys who focus on estate planning will be familiar with how to set up a trust to care for pets.  Make sure you contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney for help creating a pet trust to ensure your pets are taken care of upon your death.

Reference: AARP (Sep. 14, 2022) “Create a Pet Estate Plan for Your Fur Family”

Read Our Blog

Estate Planning Articles

Our daily blog discusses issues pertaining to Estate Planning, Probate Administration, Special Needs Planning, and Elder Law / Medicaid.
Read Our Blog

Join Our eNewsletter

Join Our eNewsletter

Each month we send an e-newsletter covering issues of Estate Planning. We also have subscriptions available for our bi-monthly Elder Law e-newsletter and weekly Business Planning e-newsletter.
Subscribe Now!

Request an Initial Consultation

Schedule a Time to Meet Our Team Today

Graber & Johnson Law Group, LLC is devoted to serving clients in the highly specialized areas of estate and business planning. Book a time to meet the Graber & Johnson Law Group Kansas Estate Planning Law Firm.
Request a Consultation

Have Questions?

If you have a a question, a comment, or simply want to have a conversation and explore how we can help, we’d love to hear from you.
Request a Consultation Now

Office Locations

Manhattan Office

1300 Fremont St
Manhattan, KS 66502

Directions

Hugoton Office

517 S. Main St.
Hugoton, KS 67951

Directions

Elkhart Office

701 Vilymaca St., PO Box 450
Elkhart, KS 67950

Directions

Hutchinson Office

517 E. 30th Ave., Suite B3
Hutchinson, KS 67502

Directions

Garden City Office

1501 E Fulton St.
Suite 3
Garden City, KS 67846

Directions

Norton Kansas Office (Appointment Only)

201 E Holme St.
Norton KS 67654

Manhattan Office

1300 Fremont St
Manhattan, KS 66502

Get Directions
Hugoton Office

517 S. Main St.
Hugoton, KS 67951

Get Directions
Elkhart Office

701 Vilymaca St., PO Box 450
Elkhart, KS 67950

Get Directions
Hutchinson Office

517 E. 30th Ave., Suite B3
Hutchinson, KS 67502

Get Directions
Garden City Office

1501 E Fulton St.
Suite 3
Garden City, KS 67846

Get Directions
Norton Kansas Office (Appointment Only)

201 E Holme St.
Norton KS 67654

Get Directions
Integrity Marketing Solutions - Estate Planning Marketing
Powered by
selectcrosschevron-down