Estate plans come in all shapes and sizes, and people plan for a variety of different reasons. One common motivator is providing for family and loved ones. An often overlooked aspect is that of pets. Today, roughly 47% of all households have a dog, and 37% of households have a cat. This equates to about 176 million pets – or 1 pet for every two people in the United States. The reality is that many estate plans do not provide for the care of a beloved pet in the event of death. Fortunately, most states now recognize the use of “pet trusts.”

A pet trust is a rather simple provision that can be included in either a will or living trust. Typically the owner will provide a nominal amount to be left to cover the cost of food, shelter, and the occasional toy. Not only does this expressly provide for the pet, but it can serve as a great way of discussing who will ultimately care for the pet upon death. Even if a family member has stated they would take care of the pet, circumstances change. One of the worst possible outcomes is either no one wishes to care for the pet, or there is no one left to. This can lead to pets going from a warm loving home to being left in an animal shelter – a very unfortunate situation.

A typical pet trust will consist of a:

• “Trustee” who will take care of the pet;
• “Trust Enforcer” who will ensure the trust is administered properly;
• “Expenditure and Distribution” terms dealing with how the funds are administered;
• “Termination and Final Distribution” events that govern winding up the trust; and
• “Purposes” language to deal with the type of care to be provided.

If you are planning for your estate, take a moment to consider how your pet will be taken care of.

Attorney Joseph C. Jones advises clients on estate planning, asset protection, business law, and real estate law matters. Joe can be reached at (906) 914-4181 or Jones Law PLC is a Michigan & Wisconsin based provider of legal services.