How Does a Pet Trust Work?


Let’s face it – our pets are amazing! It doesn’t matter whether they’re furred, feathered or scaled – you consider them part of the family. Not only do they love us unconditionally, but they have a natural ability to comfort us when we’re feeling down and can help us get out of a bad mood with their silly antics. Some people consider their pets as their children.

Like any good parent, they worry about them – not only while they’re living, but they also worry about who will care for their pets when they die. If you’re someone who worries about your pet when they die, you may wonder if putting your pet in your will ensures that they’re provided for. The answer is, not exactly.

Although you love your pets, you can’t leave property or money to your pet, but you can ask a trusted family member, relative or friend to care for your pet when you die and then give them money to do so. Keep in mind, however, that your chosen caretaker has no legal obligation to use that money to care for your pet, even if your will says so and if they initially agree to do so.

If this sounds horrible, another option exists–a pet trust. A pet trust is a legal strategy that allows you to put funds or property into a special trust account that will then be supervised by a trustee. These funds will be paid to a trusted person who has agreed to take care of your pet. For example, a traditional pet trust might say:

“I leave $5000 in trust to Mary Jones for the care of my umbrella cockatoo, Coconut. The trustee will be Samantha Thomas, and Mary Jones will take ownership of Coconut. Mary needs to purchase Nutriberries, ZuPreem pellets, and fresh organic vegetables, non-toxic toys, iron cages, etc. Coconut should go to XYZ animal hospital located at XYZ location twice a year or for emergencies (or another veterinarian facility that Mary deems acceptable. If Coconut passes, I would like him to be cremated.”

In contrast, a statutory pet trust is not as specific and would simply state:
“I leave $5,000 in trust to Mary Jones for the care of my umbrella cockatoo, Coconut.”

You can use different types of pet trusts to care for your pet when you die. But, setting one up can be complicated. Your pet trust can be set up to take effect immediately while you’re alive. This is called a living trust. Or, it can become effective when you die and a court decides that the trust is valid (testamentary pet trust). One benefit of a living trust is that this type of trust can help you care for your pet if you’re disabled and unable to care for them yourself. You have to die for a testamentary trust to kick in.

With this in mind, you should seek the counsel from Ibekwe Law, PLLC to ensure that your pet trust is set up properly.