Pets can be a big part of your life. However, estate plans did not commonly include pets up until recent years.  

According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), nearly 70 percent of American families currently own a pet. As the number of pets continues to increase, more owners are preparing for what will happen to their animals after they pass away.  

Many pet owners are choosing trusts over wills. While wills can name who your pet will go to after you pass away, the law generally still considers pets as property. As such, it can be hard to leave money to a pet in a will. Additionally, once a court assigns your pet to a new caretaker based on your will, there are no legal requirements that anyone oversees how the caretaker treats your pet.  

Not only do pet trusts allow you to leave money to your pet, but they require a legal obligation of your pet’s new caretaker to follow the instructions you provide in a trust. When you draft a pet trust, you will choose a trustee similar to a traditional trust. This person will manage the funds in the trust and make sure that the new caretaker follows the instructions you set up in the trust.  

Apart from choosing a trustee and a caretaker, you should consider some of the following factors when creating a pet trust, including:

  • How much money do you want to leave to your pet? 
  • How often do you want the trustee to communicate with the caretaker? 
  • Are there any daily routines or end of life instructions you wish for your pet? 
  • What should happen to the remaining money after your pet dies? 
  • What if you become incapacitated for an extended period of time? 

Pet trusts can be complicated. If you are considering a trust or are curious about estate plans for your pet, consider speaking to an experienced estate planning attorney to help you with the process.