Protecting your animal with a pet trust

Pet owners worry about what will happen to their animals if they can’t care for them. Outsiders often perceive the concern as bizarre, but it makes perfect sense to ensure your beloved cat, dog, bird or other pet continues to live the life they’ve grown accustomed to. The State of New York allows pet owners to keep a trust fund for their loved ones, including pets.

Trust fund for your pet(s)

A trust assures your wishes regarding your pet’s care are always adhered to. You assign a trustee who manages the trust both during your lifetime and beyond.

Trusts vs. wills

Leaving instructions for your pet in a will complicates the situation. Wills go through the court for verification and distribution. Third parties can argue your wishes and prolong the process. Trusts, on the other hand, are not subject to that legal process. A will is public. Trusts are private. If you value your privacy, prepare a trust.

New York protects the trust

A benefit of establishing a pet trust in New York is that it stays protected after the owner’s passing. Some states terminate the trust after the owner passes away. 

In this state, the trust is active until no living animal is left or after 21 years, whichever comes first. Whatever remains of the trust is then managed according to the directions in the trust. If no continuing instructions exist, the remaining balance (monies, properties, or other assets) goes to the estate.

Parameters of the pet trust

Trusts can be stringently customized to fit your plan. Your trust can include what clinician provides medical care and even how the pet gets there. Put in instructions for what food the pet eats or how to budget money. 

Trusts are flexible

You can amend a trust whenever you choose. This is why trusts should be established early. Once the owner cannot make changes, the contents are irrevocable. The early development of the trust allows adaptation to ever-evolving circumstances, such as what to do if your vet retires or who, when or if needed, takes over the trust.

Trusts are a sound way to alleviate anxiety. Wanting the best for your loved ones — including pets — is natural and needs to be a part of estate planning. Circumvent the legal system, which is a quagmire of red tape, to begin with. The court may want the best for your loved ones but it can take time to decide what that is, and it may have nothing to do with what you want.

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