It’s not that you look like Leona Hemsley or that your dog looks like Trouble, the Maltese who inherited millions from Helmsley.
Pets are considered “chattel” in the US; that is they are personal property. It is possible to plan for the care after the owner’s death, and many states have pet trust laws providing a means of enforcing the terms of the trust.
Pet trusts can be testamentary, stated in a will that takes effect after the testator’s death, or inter vivos by way of a stand-alone trust, created while the owner is still alive. A pet trust, whether by will or by trust, is an effective means of providing future care for one’s pets. A stand-alone pet trust gives the additional peace of mind that the pets will be cared for in case of the owner’s incapacity. It is possible to make a provision for care of pets in a durable power of attorney, but it is not really enforceable if the agent refuses to take the affirmative action that caring for a pet requires.
What exactly goes into a pet trust?
1. Amount of money set aside for care of the pets;
2. Designated person to serve as trustee to take the animals and to manage the trust assets;
3. Purposes for which the trust assets should be spent, such as food, toys, grooming and veterinary care;
4. How and when the trust terminates;
5. Disposition of any remaining funds after the death of the pets.
Some people are natural candidates for a pet trust, such as those who live alone or those who are concerned about what will happen to their pets should they die unexpectedly or become incapacitated.