pet trusts

Should You use a Pet Trust in your Estate Plan?


Pets are not just animals; they become beloved family members who bring joy, happiness, and companionship to our lives. As responsible pet owners, it’s important to ensure that our furry friends are well cared for even when we can no longer do so. One way to guarantee their well-being is by creating a pet trust.

The infamous Leona Helmsley was the subject of as many headlines after her death as when she was alive, mainly because she left millions in trust for her dog, “Trouble.” However, you don’t have to have millions to want to protect your faithful pet’s future in the event of your passing, according to a recent article, “Pet Trusts Are Worth the ‘Trouble’” from Wealth Management.

Pets are legally considered the personal property of their owner, in the same way one owns a house or a car. If no planning has been done, your heirs can inherit the ownership of your pet. However, they won’t be required to care for your pet. Instead, they can take the pet to a local shelter or, as often happens, abandon it. However, there are steps you can take to protect your animal companion.

Ask two friends or relatives if they would be willing to serve as emergency and/or long-term caretakers. Provide them with contact information for your veterinarian, discuss your wishes about what should happen to your pet, and ensure they have each other’s contact information. Have a frank discussion of how expenses will be covered and stay in touch with them. Circumstances can change over time; if they move, have a health issue, or can’t manage the care of your pet, you’ll want to know about it.

Planning for pets has both legal and financial considerations. A pet trust may be created as part of a living or stand-alone trust. The named trustee has access to funds, and the language of the trust includes directions as to how funds should be used for your pet and how to distribute any remaining funds upon the death of your pet. Pet trusts are now valid in all states.

Note that a verbal agreement to care for your pet may not be legally enforceable. Therefore, you may prefer to use a pet trust. While you can put a provision in your will for the care of your pet, unlike a trust arrangement, there is no continuing obligation for the executor under a will to ensure the pet’s well-being once the estate administration is completed. Instead, you’ll have to count on the moral commitment of the caregiver to take care of your pet.

Planning for your protection shows why a pet trust is a good idea. For example, your Power of Attorney names an agent to act on your behalf in the event of your own physical or mental incapacity. Including specific funds in a Power of Attorney to maintain and support companion animals is possible. However, this terminates on your death. A trust remains in effect for as long as the terms dictate, whether you are incapacitated or deceased.

Another option is to make arrangements with a humane society or animal rescue group to take possession and care of your pet. This may require making a specific donation to the group and having confidence that the organization will be operational as long as your pet lives.

Overall Benefits of a Pet Trust.

  1. Continued Care and Provision:

A pet trust provides pet owners with peace of mind, knowing that their pets will receive the necessary care and provision even after their passing. Setting up a trust allows you to designate specific instructions regarding your pet’s dietary needs, grooming, exercise routines, and medical treatments. This ensures that your pet maintains a quality standard of living just as they would in your care.

  1. Designated Caregiver:

Creating a pet trust allows you to choose a trusted caregiver who will be responsible for your pet’s well-being. This individual should not only possess a genuine love for animals but also have the necessary resources and ability to meet your pet’s needs. By appointing a caregiver, you can rest assured that your pet will be looked after by someone who understands their unique requirements and provides them with a loving environment.

  1. Financial Security:

Pets require financial resources to cover their ongoing expenses, including food, veterinary care, grooming, and more. In a pet trust, you can allocate funds specifically for your pet’s care. This ensures that there is no ambiguity regarding your pet’s financial needs and guarantees that the money will solely be used for their benefit.

  1. Avoidance of Potential Disputes:

In the absence of a pet trust, disputes may arise among family members or loved ones regarding the care and ownership of your pet. This can lead to unnecessary conflicts and potentially jeopardize your pet’s well-being. Establishing a pet trust with clear instructions and a designated caregiver can prevent such disputes and ensure your pet is in good hands.

  1. Legal Protection:

A pet trust provides legal protection for your beloved companion. It ensures that your wishes regarding your pet’s care are legally enforceable and binding. If someone fails to fulfill the responsibilities outlined in the trust, legal actions can be taken to protect your pet’s rights.


Remember, being a responsible pet owner means ensuring your pet’s needs are met in the present and future. Establishing a pet trust is a powerful way of guaranteeing that your furry friend receives the care and attention they deserve.

Creating a pet trust is essential to providing long-term care and security for your cherished pet. By considering their future needs and taking proactive measures, you can ensure that your pet will continue to experience love, comfort, and happiness throughout their lives.

Speak with your estate planning attorney about your state’s rules on pet trusts and plan for yourself and your beloved animal companion. You’ll then rest easy knowing you are both protected.

Reference: Wealth Management (April 14, 2023) “Pet Trusts Are Worth the ‘Trouble’”

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