Pet trusts: Planning for your pets as part of your estate plan

In our September newsletter, we discussed the benefits of creating a pet trust. Today we will explore some of the intricacies of pet trusts as well as the importance of working with an attorney experienced in the creation of a pet trust.

Planning for your pets should be part of your estate planning.

The benefits of a pet trust go beyond the practical.  It allows you (the settlor), to select a person  (the trustee) to manage the funds and supervise the care for your pet (statutory beneficiary).  In most cases the trustee is the caregiver for the pet, but in some cases it’s another individual or organization. Another critically important role is who will enforce the trust.  This should be someone named in the trust who is not the trustee. If the trust does not name an enforcer, the court can appoint one.  Of course, there needs to be backups named for all the positions.

Pet trusts are a relatively new area of estate planning so working with a qualified attorney is critical.

They were created by statute in Georgia in 2010.  Why was it necessary to create a special statute? Because at common law, a non-human cannot be a beneficiary.  The pet must be living during the settlers lifetime.

An attorney will make sure that your trust specifically states how funds will be distributed if any are left over after your death. Your attorney will help you identify suitable backups for all positions whether they be family, friends, or independent organizations.   There are a number of wonderful organizations out there, including Lifeline Animal Project and Best Friends.

Your attorney will help you evaluate your finances, your pet, and the anticipated level of care they require in order to help you determine how much money you will need to fund your pet trust.  If your pet is a 14 year old cat, you may need to designate less than you would if you have three Westminster Dog Show finalists or a Kentucky Derby winner!

Planning for your pets allows you to ensure your best friend has appropriate care and a quality life throughout your pets natural life. Learn more about Hurley Elder Care Law and our approach to pet trusts by calling us at 404-843-0121

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