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How a pet trust can fit into an estate plan

Including a pet in the estate plan can be done through a pet provision or a pet trust. Understanding the difference can help people ensure the best lives for their pets when they aren’t around.

As people set up their estate plans in New York, such as writing a last will and testament and any trusts, they most likely will want to include their animal companions. There are a couple of different ways to go about doing this. One is by incorporating a pet provision in an already-existing will or trust. The other is to create a standalone pet trust.

Creating a pet provision

A pet provision is effectively adding a section to a will or trust that specifically addresses a pet. By naming his or her pet in one of these provisions, someone can set aside funds for his or her pet’s care and specify who will care for the animal when he or she is gone. It is also possible to specify whom any leftover funds will go to if the pet dies before the funds are exhausted.

Within a trust, a pet provision specifies that in the event of the grantor’s passing, if a specified pet survived, a certain amount of the trust fund will be distributed to the trustee, who will then distribute these funds to the person who has custody of that animal. This guarantees that the predetermined portion of the trust will be used for the care of the animal. Most people draft this provision of their trust to remain in effect until the pet has died.

Within a will, a pet provision names a caregiver to give the pet to. It is possible to specify that the animal is given to someone who can provide proper care and a good home. This provision can also require the executor to distribute a specified sum to the person to whom the pet is given.

Creating a pet trust

Pet provisions are add-ons to trusts and wills and thus operate within the limitations of those documents. They can guarantee some degree of certainty that a person’s pet will continue to have a good life after their passing, but are ultimately less powerful than a full pet trust. A full pet trust is a stand-alone legally sanctioned arrangement intended to guarantee that one or more named animals will be properly cared for after the grantor’s death. In addition to the above capabilities of pet provisions, a pet trust allows for instructions for the animal’s final disposition, a full description of the expected standard of care for the pet, regular inspections of the pet by the trustee, and the specification of adequate means of identifying the animal.

Those working on their estate plans may be daunted by the complexities of the law in these matters. It may be helpful to speak with an attorney in the local area who practices estate planning law.