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What Is A Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a trust agreement whereby a trust maker sets aside money or other assets for the care and treatment of his or her pet. This money is available for the trustee of the pet trust to spend for the medical treatment, food, and possibly for the lodging of the trust maker’s pet in the event such is necessary. A pet trust is suitable for almost any domestic animal or even a non-domesticated animal that is owned by the trust maker.

This type of trust becomes necessary when a trust maker, who owns a pet or pets, is concerned that his or her beneficiaries will not give the pet the care and treatment that the trust maker believes the pet should receive. Sometimes this is due to the beneficiaries not having the financial ability and such a trust will eliminate this issue.

What Information Is Included In A Pet Trust?

There are several necessary elements for a pet trust. First, and possibly most important, is the naming of a trustee who you trust to hold the trust finances and use them in a way that is best for your pet. Next, you must consider how much money you will set aside and what means you are expecting the trustee to provide from this money. The need could include anything from medical care and training to food and shelter. Of course, one should also identify which pet or pets would be eligible to benefit from this trust. That information may be as general as “whatever pet or pets I own at the time of my passing” to something as specific as “my Himalayan cat named Itty Bitty is the beneficiary of this trust.”

How Do I Fund A Pet Trust?

A pet trust may be funded in a few different ways. Some people set up these trusts and fund them during their lifetimes so that they can see that the trusts have received the appropriate sums of money or the assets that they desired to set aside. Another option is to put the funding instructions in your last will and testament and rely upon the probate court to monitor the funding of the pet trust. This method is not quite as well received by some of my clients, as they fear that the probate judge and the executor will not be willing to fund such a trust.

Lastly, your own trust may create a sub-trust upon your death and fund that sub-trust in the fashion in which you have decided. This provision also leaves some people less than comforted as they have seen successor trustees refuse to follow the terms of their estate plans. My response to that concern is that I recognize these things can happen but I also recognize that the trustee of the primary trust has a fiduciary duty to follow the terms of that trust unless a court with jurisdiction over that trust rules otherwise. Therefore there is a strong reason to believe that the pet trust would be funded according to your instructions so long as your estate is financially able to follow all of your instructions.

How Much Money Should I Put Into My Pet Trust?

The answer to this question varies drastically. What is the age of your pet? How long does this type of animal typically live? Does your pet suffer from any genetic weaknesses that will likely cause it to require expensive treatment as it grows older? These are a few examples of things you may want to consider in deciding how much money to put into the trust.

Pets are receiving better and better treatment every year but all of that comes with a price. Cats may receive radiation therapy and chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer but that will not be cheap. Further, it may extend the cat’s life for some years and therefore increase the total amount of money that should be set aside for that pet. For all of these reasons, there is no way to answer this question without knowing a great deal about your pet.

What Happens If I Put Too Much Money In The Trust?

If your estate planning attorney is doing his or her job correctly they will ask you to tell them where any leftover funds would be distributed if there is money left in your trust after the life of your pet has ended. It is possible that this money could go back into your primary trust and it is equally possible that it could go to the charity or person of your choice. In any event, be certain that your trust has a clause in it that tells us where you want that money to go.

For more information on Pet Trusts In Oklahoma, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 754-4166 today.

Terrell Monks, Esq. - Estate Planning Attorney, Edmond City

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