For many pet owners, pets are members of the family. Given the feelings of many individuals towards their pets, and the costs of care and longevity of some types of pets, planning in this area can be of critical importance. Today, thirty-eight states, including California, and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes pertaining to pet trusts, and others have legislation pending. These statutes allow virtually any third party designated by the terms of the trust to use the trust funds for the benefit of pets.
The pet’s current standard of care determines the endowment amount required to provide care for the pet. Factors include: the cost of daily care (food, treats, and daycare), veterinary care (yearly teeth cleaning, shots, nail trimming, and emergency care), grooming, boarding, travel expenses, and pet insurance. Additional factors may apply in particular cases. For example, horses are expensive to maintain and require exercise, training, and a large tract of land; some birds and reptiles have very long life expectancies; and care of some pets will require construction of a special habitat on the caregiver’s property.
A pet owner can name a human caregiver as the beneficiary of a trust, require that the distributions to the beneficiary are dependent on the beneficiary caring appropriately for the pet, and require the trustee to ensure that the beneficiary is properly caring for the pet using trust assets.
By discussing these issues with us, pet owners can ensure that all of their loved ones are cared for, even when the owner is unable to care for them directly.