by Guest Blogger, Maribeth Deavers, Attorney
Who will take care of your pet in the unfortunate circumstance of your death? Ohio law now allows you to create a trust specifically for the care of your pet. Such pet trusts can cover any type of pet including dogs, horses, and even your miniature pig. The trust may be one created during your lifetime (“Intervivos Trust”) or created at the time of your death through your Will (“Testamentary Trust”). The purpose of the trust is to provide monies for the care and maintenance of your pet. Generally, the trust will name a person as “trustee” who will administer the trust and assure your intentions are carried out. If the trust fails to name a trustee or the named trustee cannot serve, the Court has the authority to appoint someone.
The trust may identify the trustee as the person to take care of the pet or may name an additional person to serve as a pet manager to find a home for your pet or a caretaker who provides general welfare services such as walking, feeding and cleaning. It may also identify a trusted veterinarian to provide future health care. It may be more prudent to have the trustee and caregiver as separate persons to prevent mismanagement of the trust funds.
The life of the trust cannot be longer than the life of the animal it benefits. Therefore it cannot cover any offspring of your pet. The trust will terminate upon the death of your pet or if multiple pets are the beneficiaries of the trust, upon the death of the last surviving pet. A Court has the authority to limit care and maintenance expenses if it finds them unreasonable. Excess monies or property in the trust will be distributed, unless otherwise specified, to your heirs.
Consider the following when creating a trust for your pet:
- Name a responsible person to serve as trustee to administer the trust;
- Name a primary caregiver or custodian to provide care and services to your pet
- Name alternate trustees and caregivers in the event they cannot serve
- Fund the trust with sufficient monies or property to cover the expected costs of care, maintenance and veterinary services for the life of your pet however be careful of overfunding it
- Write down specific care instructions and include them with your pet trust in your estate planning documents
- Write down any specific training your pet receives, identify the training provider and specify whether you wish to have your pet continue that training
- Identify any specific health conditions, past and present, and include the name of your current veterinarian
- Protect your pet’s identity with a microchip to avoid fraud
- Identify any burial intentions you have for your pet and whether you have any arrangements relative to a pet cemetery
- Specify how any monies or property remaining after your pet’s death should be distributed