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Pet Trusts: Ensuring Care for Pets When You Can No Longer Care for Them

Published August 8, 2017

By Arshi Pal, Esq.

As the summer brings warmer weather and longer days, I look forward to my evenings in the doggy park with my twins, Louie and Simba. When I get home from work there they are waiting for me to pick them up and take them to their favorite spot. I cherish the times we spend together but I can’t help but think about what would happen to my puppies if anything were to happen to me.

Louie and Simba are Schipperkes from the same litter, they are inseparable. I do not want for them to be split up if I were no longer around or unable to care for them. They are very picky eaters, who would ensure they only got their favorite flavor dog food? Who would ensure they got to go to their favorite park at least once a week?

To put my worries to rest, I decided to create a Pet Trust for the benefit of Louie and Simba. A Pet Trust is a legally enforceable document that ensures care to of a person’s pets after their death or if they become incapacitated. All 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize Pet Trusts. Each state has their own rules regarding Pet Trusts. In New York, Pet Trusts are governed by NY CLS EPTL §7-8.1. The law states that a Pet Trust may be created for the benefit of a pet and shall terminate upon the pet’s death.

Under New York Law, unlike many other states, a Pet trust is not required to terminate upon the Settlor’s or the creator’s death. This ensures that the trust effectuates the Settlor’s wishes even upon death. Additionally, some people may want to provide for their pets but do not want to fund a trust until their passing. New York allows individuals, in their Will, to create a trust for the benefit of a pet.

In creating either type of Pet Trust, the Settlor must choose a Trustee. The Trustee is  the individual who will ensure the terms of the trust are carried out. Some considerations in choosing a Trustee include whether the individual is familiar with the Pets, whether the individual likes the pets and whether the individual has experience taking care of pets. The Settlor can leave specific instructions in the Trust document on how the pets must be taken care of.  The Settlor can also name a Trust Protector who will ensure that the Trustee is carrying out his or her duties as dictated in the Trust. In the Pet Trust the Settlor will choose what will happen to any remaining funds once the Trust terminates. This can either be a charity or an individual who will receive the Trust Estate upon the death of the last surviving pet.

It may be difficult to imagine parting with our pets. However, the decisions we make today will ensure a good quality of life for our pets upon our passing. Creating a pet trust may seem like a daunting task. However, with the help of an experienced Trust and Estates attorney you can rest assured that your pets will be taken care of when you can no longer care for them.

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