Many of us consider our pets members of the family, and you can protect pets with a Pet Trust. For most purposes, the law looks at pets like any other tangible personal property: not any different than furniture or other personal property. In Arizona (and Maryland), pets are considered property, reports the East Valley Tribune in the article “Trusts can help provide for a pet’s future.” That means you can’t leave them your house or open a bank account in their name.
However, you can take measures to protect your pets from what could happen to them after you pass away.
The simple thing to do is to make arrangements with a trusted family member or friend to take care of your pet and leave some money for their care. The problem is, there’s no way to enforce this, and it’s all based on trust. What happens if something unexpected happens to your trusted family member or friend and they can’t care for your pet?
You’ve also given them funds that they are not legally required to spend on your pet.
Another choice is to leave your pet to a no-kill animal shelter. However, shelters, even no-kill shelters, can be stressful for animals who are used to a family home. There’s also no way to know when your pet will be adopted since most people come to shelters to adopt puppies and kittens. There is also the issue of the shelter. Will it continue to operate after you are gone?
The best way that many people care for their pets is by having a pet trust created. An estate planning attorney in your state will know if your state is among the many that allow a pet trust to be created to benefit your pet.
Start by naming a guardian for your pets, including instructions on whether your pets should be kept together. If you are not sure about a guardian, name additional guardians, in case one does not wish to serve. Then determine how much money you need to leave for the pet’s care. This will depend upon the animal’s age, health, and life expectancy. There will need to be adequate funding for any medical issues. The trust can specify whether you want your pet to undergo expensive surgeries or whether they should be kept comfortable at any cost.
You’ll want to make sure to name a guardian who you are confident will care for your pet or pets in the same manner as you would.
A pet trust will require you to name a trustee, who will be in charge of disbursing the funds as they are needed, check on the pet to be sure they are well, and make sure your instructions are being followed. The money in the trust must only be used by the person for the care of the pets.
A pet trust will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your beloved companion animals are being cared for, even when you are not here to care for them. Speak with an estate planning attorney to learn how to make a pet trust part of your overall estate plan.
Reference: East Valley Tribune (Oct. 14, 2019) “Trusts can help provide for a pet’s future”