Estate Planning and Pets

Many families fail to address the needs of their pets when undertaking estate planning. Pets and other animals such as livestock are considered personal property and pass as such under an individual’s will, unless there are specific provisions dealing with pets or animals.  Only a small percentage of pet owners include provisions for their pets in their estate planning documents.  This places a burden on executors, administrators, and family members in making decisions about the care and custody of pets following their owner’s death.

Tennessee and Virginia have each adopted a version of the Uniform Trust Code dealing with trusts for animals. These trusts can provide a source of funding to care for your pets after your death.  The beneficiary of a trust for the care of animals can be any animal or animals living at the time of the testator’s death, and the trust can continue until the last to die of the animal beneficiaries or 90 years, whichever comes sooner.

Funds in a trust for the care of animals shall be expended for the animals’ care, including all expenses associated with food, boarding, grooming, medications, and veterinary care, including any expenses for the treatment of diseases, neurological conditions, mobility impairment, and cremation or burial upon the death of the animals.  Expenses related to the pet’s new home may also be provided by the trust , including the costs of fencing a yard or adding ramps to assist with the mobility issues of aging pets.

There is also some flexibility in establishing trusts for the care of animals. The financial role of trustee to manage the trust funds can be separated from the caregiver role, allowing individuals to choose the person most suited to care for the animal without regard for that person’s ability to manage the financial aspects of the trust.  Utilizing a trust for the care of your animals ensures your four legged family members will be taken care of long after you are gone.