Pet Trusts and Estate Planning for Pets

Who will care for your pets when you die, become incapacitated, or become hospitalized?

Is adding my pet to my Will a good idea?

Unfortunately because a pet is considered personal property, like furniture or a car, it cannot be named as a beneficiary of a Will. Often, a provision in a Will for the benefit of a pet, for instance by making a bequest to a caretaker, fails because there is no resource if the caretaker takes the money and leaves the pet at the pound. Also, a Will is usually not reviewed until after the pet owner has died. Thus, if the owner is incapacitated or hospitalized, the pet is unprotected – and hungry!

The Solution: Pet Trusts

It is important to empower an agent with authority to take possession of a pet or pets, make pet care decisions, and utilize assets for pet care. A pet trust is an agreement which can be individually tailored to provide for care and maintenance of pets. It should take effect at the pet owner’s disability or death, whichever first occurs. It is unquestionably the best mechanism for protecting pets.

In New York, Pet Trusts Are Legal

When a Will is not an optimal solution, other actions can be taken to help protect your pets. In addition to assigning a permanent pet caregiver and earmarking money for your pet, one of the key strategies we use to help our clients is a pet trust. In fact, in New York, and approximately 39 other States, the laws allow for the creation of pet trusts.

What is a Pet Trust? Are their Pet Laws?

A pet trust is a legally enforceable mechanism for providing for the care and maintenance of pets in the event of the owner’s disability and/or death. Pet trusts fall under trust law and are one option for pet owners. Other options are honorary trusts, provisions in a Will and traditional trusts, to name a few.

In essence, pet trusts stipulate that, in the event of a grantor’s disability or death, a trustee will hold property (for example, the property may be cash) “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets. The “grantor” (also called a trustor or settlor in some states) is the person who creates the trust, which may take affect during a person’s lifetime or at death. Payments to a designated caregiver or caregivers are made on a regular basis.

Such a trust can mean the difference between life and death for the pet. Establishing a plan for your pet’s long term care and a pet trust is important for pet owners who want to ensure that their faithful companion or companions will receive proper care throughout life.

What do I need to think about when I establish a pet trust?

Things to think about when establishing a Pet Trust: You will need to name a Caretaker, one who is willing and able to care for the pet and carry out detailed instructions concerning the pet’s care and maintenance.  The more particular the instructions, the easier it will be to care for the pet.  Provisions can require the Caretaker to bring the pet for visits with an incapacitated owner.  A client with multiple pets may want to specify that they continue to live together. You should designate a substitute Caretaker if the first is unable to perform.  A Trustee and successor Trustee should be named, someone who disburses the funds to the Caretaker.  Pet trusts can also designate an “Enforcer,” one whose job it is to make sure that the Trustee and Caretaker comply with the trust.

There are also not-for-profit sanctuary organizations that will provide perpetual care programs for pets and other organizations that will place these pets in foster care homes.  Some programs require contributions.  Almost all require advance enrollment.  Once again, appropriate provision must be stated in the owner’s estate planning documents.

Plan Ahead With Our Long Island New York Pet Trust Attorneys

Are you a New York pet owner? If you want to ensure that your pet, who has given you love and loyalty, will be continually cared for, please call us. Make an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney who is experienced in establishing pet trusts and long term pet plans. Our Long Island law firm understands New York’s pet laws and the unique opportunities in this State for protecting our pets. We are also pet lovers ourselves and understand the sensitive nature of your needs.

Please call Long Island pet trust attorneys Berwitz and DiTata LLP at 516-747-3200 so that we can help you complete estate planning for your pet and make sure your pet companion will be cared for throughout its life.

Let us know how our Garden City, NY pet trust lawyers can help you or a pet owner you know.
Call Us Now Berwitz & DiTata LLP at 516-747-3200