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Chapter 4. Estate Planning > Planning for Your Pets

Planning for Your Pets

It may be a dog’s life, but if that dog, cat or as in the case of my wife and me cat, horse and llama, is yours, its life is pretty important to you. So how do you provide for your pets in your estate plan? Thirteen states now have laws, all of fairly recent origin, that allow pet owners to establish specific trusts for the ongoing care of their animals following the death of the pet’s owner. These laws permit trusts that specifically name animals as trust beneficiaries. In most states, the law does not allow nonhumans to be the beneficiary of a trust. In some states that have not specifically dealt in their legislatures with the issue of pets as the beneficiaries of wills or trusts, people who have tried to set up such trusts have had them challenged successfully by human heirs.

So, if you live in one of the states that does not permit trusts for pets as beneficiaries, how do you provide for a procedure for enforcement of the trust’s provisions on behalf of the animal? One option is to name a human as the beneficiary of a trust funded by the pet owner; under the terms of the trust the human beneficiary is designated as a caretaker for the pet with payments to the caretaker beneficiary conditioned upon care for the trust creator’s pet. Another possibility, less complex, is to use your will to merely give your pet to someone to whom you also give money through your will to take care of your pet. The main problem with this arrangement is the lack of a good mechanism to enforce the obligation of the caretaker to care for the pet.


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