What Is the Purpose of a Pet Trust?

Home » Blog » What Is the Purpose of a Pet Trust?
Posted on: June 1, 2022 | by: Graber & Johnson Law Group, LLC
Many well-off pet owners have left millions of dollars to their cats, dogs and even chickens—perhaps most notoriously Leona Helmsley, who left US$12 million when she died in 2007 to her white Maltese dog Trouble.

You don’t have to be a billionaire to want to protect your pets. However, you do need to plan for their well-being, if something happens to you. Since pets are considered property, they can’t inherit money to be used for their care. Instead, as explained in a recent article from Barron’s Penta “Future Returns: Why Fido Needs a Trust” titled owners can create pet trusts to protect them, if something happens to their humans. With close to 70% of American households having pets, pet trusts have now become mainstream.

Owners need to designate a reliable caregiver, just as they would designate a guardian for minor children. If you don’t have family members or friends who love animals, contact a local animal rescue group to learn if they have a life-long care program for animals. Many do, with programs incorporating Charitable Remainder Trusts to cover the cost of the pet’s care.

If you want a friend or relative to care for your pet, make sure they are willing and able to do so.  You should have another person as a back-up, in case something happens to them. Circumstances change, and someone who wants to take care of your pet now may not be able to in future years. How long you need to plan for depends upon the lifespan of your pet.

An experienced estate planning attorney can create a pet trust. Because state law enforces conditional distributions from the trust, the care of your pet can be enforced in court, if necessary. The pet owner names a beneficiary, the caregiver and funds the trust with enough assets to care for the pet.

The pet owner also names a trustee. They are a responsible person who will be in charge of distributing funds and making sure they are used for the pet’s well-being. The trustee also makes sure that the pet is healthy and being properly cared for, following the directions of the trust.

Your estate planning attorney will know what your state’s laws are regarding pet trusts, which varies from state to state. For instance, Pennsylvania requires a pet trust to end when the last pet in the trust dies, while other states may limit the trust’s length to 21 years. For dogs and cats, 21 years is a reasonable period of time. However, for other pets, like birds who can live to 100 years, this won’t be long enough.

You’ll need to fund the trust, making sure that there’s enough money to cover the pet’s needs throughout their lifetime. You may also consider the caregiver’s needs, depending on circumstances. How much is reasonable will depend upon the type of pet and the lifestyle of the caretaker. An apartment dweller caring for an elderly cat will need a different level of resources than a person tasked to care for a young horse.

Some states limit the amount of money in a pet trust and will penalize overfunding. Making sure your pet trust is appropriately funded may limit the likelihood of its being challenged.

Reference: Barron’s Penta (April 18, 2022) “Future Returns: Why Fido Needs a Trust”

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

714 Poyntz Ave., Suite C
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

714 Poyntz Ave., Suite C
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