Your pet is family, and you treat them as such. He or she gets bought toys, high-quality food and treats. Your animal companion has playtime, gets to exercise, gets to go on trips, and gets to sleep on luxury bedding and live the true high-life in some households. Even if you don’t believe your pet needs all the bells and whistles, those good boys and good girls are still treated well and deserve the best. 

In the event of your death or incapacitation, your pet may not receive the best treatment and financial stability possible unless you create a trust for your pet. You could choose the route of a handshake agreement with your sibling, child, relative, or friend to take care of your pets if you pass, but what if they have a change of heart?

Setting up a pet trust

A pet trust operates similarly to a living trust, whereas you (the grantor) assign a trustee, who in the vent of your death or incapacitation would support your pet’s well-being via the funds and other assets you set designate to your pet. Those benefits could include feeding and boarding costs, all veterinary care, grooming expenses, end-of-life treatment, or all the above.

In New York, a pet trust will remain until the last surviving animal named on the trust passes away.

Since they understand each choice’s legal ramifications, an estate planning attorney is a great resource when drafting a pet trust. They can help you appoint successor trustees in case your pet outlives the one you initially designated to watch over your beloved pet.

When you draft your pet trust, be specific, and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What standard of living has your pet grown accustomed to experiencing?
  2. What level of care do you expect your pet’s new caregiver to provide?
  3. When should your pet’s caregiver report the health status of your pet to the trustee?
    • A trustee (the person who handles the funds) and the caregiver (the caretaker of your pet) can be the same person if you feel that they are extremely trustworthy and won’t use the funds you set aside for your pet frivolously. On the other hand, having a separate trustee and caregiver provides an organic checks and balances system.
  4. How long do you expect your pet to live?
  5. What are the chances your pet will develop serious health complications as he or she ages?
  6. How much money do you expect your pet’s caregiver will need to cover immediate pet-related expenses?
  7. If your pet passes away and money remains in the trust, what should happen to the remaining funds?
    • In this event, consider splitting up the money between the trustee and caregiver, assign the funds to a charity of your choice or designate the money another way you see fit.