What is a pet trust?
A pet trust is an arrangement to provide for the care and financial support of your pet(s) upon your disability or death. You fund the trust with property or cash that can be used to provide for your pet based on your instructions in the trust document.
Your pet trust should name a trustee who will carry out your instructions for the care of your pet, including handling and disbursement of trust funds and turning your pet over to the person or entity you designate to serve as your pet's caregiver.
The trustee and caregiver could be the same person or entity.
As with most trusts, you can create your pet trust while you're alive (an inter vivos or living trust) or at your death through your will (a testamentary trust). In either case, you can generally change the terms of your pet trust at any time during your lifetime to accommodate changing circumstances. If you create an inter vivos trust, you can fund it with cash or property either during your life (needed if the trust is to care for your pet if you become incapacitated) or at your death through your will. A testamentary trust is only funded after you die.
Some of the instructions to consider for your pet trust include: provisions for food and diet, daily routines, toys, medical care and grooming, how the trustee or caregiver is to document expenditures for reimbursement, whether the trust will insure the caregiver for any injuries or claims caused by your pet, and the disposition of your pet's remains.
You may also want to name a person or organization to take your pet should your trust run out of funds. Also consider naming a remainder beneficiary to receive any funds or property remaining in the trust after your pet dies.
A potential problem arises if your pet is expected to live for more than 21 years after your death. That's because, in many states, the "rule against perpetuities" forbids a trust from lasting beyond a certain period of time, usually 21 years after the death of an identified person. However, almost every state has laws relating to pet trusts that address this issue in particular and allow for the continued maintenance of the trust, even if its terms would otherwise violate the rule.
Note that there are costs and expenses associated with the creation of a trust.