For many pet owners, pets are members of the family. Given the feelings of many individuals towards their pets, and the costs of care and longevity of some types of pets, planning in this area can be of critical importance. Today, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes pertaining to pet trusts, and others have legislation pending. These statutes allow virtually any third party designated by the terms of the trust to use the trust funds for the benefit of pets.
Some state statutes specifically limit the terms of a pet trust. For example, some states limit the amount of money an individual can leave in trust for his or her pet to the amount required to care for the animal over the term of the trust. The trust must distribute any excess funds to the beneficiaries who would have taken them had the pet trust terminated.
The pet's current standard of care determines the endowment amount required to provide care for the pet. Factors include: the cost of daily care (food, treats, and daycare), veterinary care (yearly teeth cleaning, shots, nail trimming, and emergency care), grooming, boarding, travel expenses, and pet insurance. Additional factors may apply in particular cases. For example, horses are expensive to maintain and require exercise, training, and a large tract of land; some birds and reptiles have very long life expectancies; and care of some pets will require construction of a special habitat on the caregiver's property.
By discussing these issues with your estate planning attorney, pet owners can ensure that all of their loved ones are cared for, even when the owner is unable to care for them directly.