According to a survey conducted by the Animal Pet Products Association, statistics show that sixty-eight percent of households nationwide have a pet as part of the family. While it is a smart idea to plan ahead to ensure that family members are provided for by creating a will or trust, our furry family members don’t need to be excluded from it. NY EPTL § 7-8.1 allows for enforceable trusts to be created for our pet family members to ensure that they will be well taken care of in the event of incapacity or death.
There are two types of trusts a person may consider creating for their pet. A testamentary trust is part of a will and the provisions would take effect upon the death of the pet's owner. An inter vivos trust is one that would be effective while the pet owner is still alive. To create a trust, you also need to consider who you will name as the trustee-- the person you designate to manage the trust and disburse funds. The trustee does not necessarily have to be the same individual whom you designate as the caretaker of your animals. It may also be wise to designate an alternative caregiver in the event that the named caregiver is unable to care for the animal. In New York, the duration of the trust is the animal’s lifetime, or the lifetime of the last animal remaining, if multiple animals are included in the trust instrument.
Depending on the type of animal and their living arrangements, a pet trust can range from simple to complex. Pet trusts can be set up for dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, birds, fish, and any other type of animal that is a pet. Some things to consider when creating a trust, in addition to who you wish the caretaker to be, are the detailed instructions as to how you wish your pet to be cared for. A trust can include instructions pertaining to your pet’s food preferences; any walking and exercise routines; your chosen veterinarian and groomer; whether the animals must live together if there is more than one animal in the trust; and what should happen to any funds remaining after the animal’s lifetime.
This article is not meant to be construed as legal advice, nor form an attorney-client relationship. If you are considering setting up a trust for your pet, it is best to speak with an attorney who understands the special bond between people and their pets. Contact The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins to set up a consultation to discuss the best options for you and your pet. Call (646) 397-6844 to schedule an appointment.