Many pet owners believe pet planning is as simple as including a provision for your pet’s care in your will. However, if you want protection for your pet and assurance that your wishes will be fulfilled, a trust may be a better option. Understanding how to use a pet trust is important if you want this tool to operate properly.
The definition of a pet trust
A pet trust is like any other trust, in how it is established and how it operates. The trust is created with sufficient funds and assets to provide care for your pet. The terms of the trust provide the future caregiver with your directions as to how care should be provided. The trustee will be in charge of making certain that your instructions are being followed by your chosen caregiver.
Two types of pet trusts
There are basically two common types of pet trusts: traditional and statutory. A traditional pet trust is effective in every state, no matter where it is created. The majority of pet owners prefer this type of pet trust because it allows for the most control over their pet’s care.
A statutory pet trust is accepted in more than 45 states. It is a more basic pet plan and does not require as much detail to be included in the terms of the trust. Instead, the laws of that state will “fill in the gaps.” Something as simple as, “I leave $5,000 in trust for the care of my dog, Spot” can be sufficient.
Why pet trusts are better than simple will provisions
To put it simply, you cannot properly protect your pet’s future by only mentioning them in your will. The first problem is that any pet provisions in a will are not legally enforceable. The only purpose of the will is to distribute your property, as you request. However, once your pet is distributed to your chosen caregiver, it becomes his or her property. The caregiver is not legally obligated to care for the pet at all. Nor is the caregiver required to use the funds you set aside for the benefit of the pet. So, if you understand how to use a pet trust, it will most likely be the better option.
Using a will delays your pet’s care
Another disadvantage of using a will for pet estate planning is that the terms will not be carried out until after your death, and after the will goes through the probate process. This means that your pet will not receive care until after that process is completed and your estate is settled. Also, a will cannot provide for your pet’s care if you become incapacitated. However, a trust can provide for that situation.
Despite these inherent issues, using a will for pet planning can still be accomplished by supplementing the terms with a pet trust or a pet agreement.
If you have questions regarding a pet trust, or any other pet estate planning needs, please contact Wilcox Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.
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