Pet trusts are becoming more and more common. As noted on the ASPCA website, a pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement that provides for the care and maintenance of one or more pets in the event of their owner’s disability or death. As also noted by the ASPCA, such a trust may take effect during a person’s lifetime or after their death.
The Uniform Probate Code was amended in 1990 to allow states to provide for pet trusts. Forty-four states have now enacted pet trust laws.
There are a number of important considerations in setting up a pet trust. One of the most important is choice of the trustee (which is a critically important consideration in all trust arrangements).
The law in this area is developing rapidly. For further reading, I recommend material prepared by Professor Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law. While this material is designed for attorneys, the Introduction and other parts of Professor Beyer’s article have a lot of fascinating non-technical information. For example, he discusses Leona Helmsley’s $12 million bequest to her pet. He also notes that singer Dusty Springfield’s Will made extensive provisions for her cat, Nicholas, including that he be fed imported baby food and listen to her recordings each night at bedtime. Professor Beyer reports that more than one out of ten people now include their pets in their estate planning.
A pet trust is not going to be the key component of your asset protection plan. But since more and more Americans are establishing pet trusts, it is important to consider them in connection with asset protection planning. If your pet is very important to you (which is likely to be the case), you could leave some extra funds to one of your children and ask them to care for your pet in the event of your death. But if your son or daughter has creditor problems, those funds could be lost. Segregating a reasonable amount of funds in a separate trust for the care of a pet would protect those assets — and make it far more likely that they will be there if needed.