It’s hard to imagine that someone else could love your dog, cat, or horse as much as you do. If you are older or suffer from a debilitating disease, you are probably worried about what will happen to your faithful companions once you are no longer able to care for them. One way to get some peace of mind is to leave instructions for the care of your pet and set money aside to ensure they are cared for as you wish. You could do this in an informal way by writing down your wishes and sharing them with a trusted friend or family member. However, to ensure that your wishes are legally binding, you might want to establish a Living Trust for your pet.
How a Pet Trust Works
The Uniform Probate Code in both Texas and Arkansas allows animal trusts, but you will want to make sure your Trust is drafted in accordance with the laws of the state you live in. A Pet Trust works just like any other Revocable Living Trust. You will name a dependable person as the Trustee, and their job will be to make sure the terms of the Trust are honored. You might want to include the following in drafting your Trust:
- Who will take the animals. The Trustee you have named does not necessarily have to take ownership of the pets. In fact, it is probably best if the Trustee and the new owner are not the same person. That way, the Trustee can make sure that the owner is following the instructions. The new owner you name could be a family member, friend, or rescue organization in the case of a horse or other livestock. You should make sure that the owner you have named is willing and able to take the animal.
- Care instructions. Animals can be finicky about food and sleeping arrangements. Include specific instructions in the Trust documents for feeding schedules, preferred food, access to the outdoors, exercise routines, boarding and grooming facilities, and any other details of their care.
- Veterinary requirements. List your animal’s veterinarian, who should have all the important medical information the new owner will need. However, you can also include instructions for medications, routine care, and how you want certain diagnoses—such as cancer—handled for your pet.
- Identifying information. Pets cannot identify themselves, so include photos and, more importantly, microchip information and possibly even DNA samples. The Trust should provide full, legal identification of each animal to prevent confusion.
- Access to the pets. Your Trust should grant the Trustee full legal access to the pets once the owner takes possession so that he or she can make sure your wishes are being followed.
- Funds for the care of your pets. The most important part of the Trust is the money that will be required to care for your pet according to your instructions. The Trustee will approve expenses and pay the new owner for food, medical care, boarding, daycare, toys, and anything else you have specified in your instructions.
- Remainder beneficiary. If your pets die before the funds have run out, your remainder beneficiary will inherit what’s left. The likely recipient of these funds is the pet’s caregiver, but it doesn’t have to be. You could leave the funds to an animal shelter, rescue organization, kennel, or daycare.
- Instructions for final disposition. Finally, when your pet passes away, do you want them to be buried or cremated? Be sure you have provided funds to cover the cost.
Some of us are lucky enough to have a friend or family member who loves our furry companions as much as we do. If you have such a person in your life, there may be no need for these kinds of formalities in a Pet Trust. However, if you are worried about the quality of your pet’s care, it is a good idea to set aside the funds that will be needed to provide for your pet.
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