As trusted companions, pets are becoming ever more meaningful in the lives of many people across the country. Animal care experts remind us that it is important to plan for what happens to our pets when we are no longer able to look out for their needs. The establishment of a pet trust can be helpful. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is A Pet Trust?
While we can hope that friends and loved ones will do us a favor and do the right thing by our animal companions when we become unable to care for them, there’s no guarantee that they will be able to fulfill our wishes. The twists and turns of navigating busy lives these days mean that even friends with the best of intentions might not be able to fully care for the animals we have chosen to love. Enter pet trusts: legal arrangements that enable us to specify care for pets—and set aside funds for that purpose. As The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) further explains:
A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals in the event of a grantor’s disability or death. The “grantor” (also called a settlor or trustor in some states) is the person who creates the trust, which may take effect during a person’s lifetime or at death. Typically, a trustee will hold property (cash, for example) “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets. The trustee will make payments to a designated caregiver(s) on a regular basis. The trust, depending upon the state in which it is established, will continue for the life of the pet or 21 years, whichever occurs first. Some states allow a pet trust to continue for the life of the pet without regard to a maximum duration of 21 years. This is particularly advantageous for companion animals whom have longer life expectancies than cats and dogs, such as horses and parrots.
Trust Agreements, Trustees and Trustee Bonds
When working with an attorney to establish a pet trust, it’s important to put as much detail about how the pet is to be cared for into the trust agreement as possible. For example, instructions can even include arrangements for caring for a pet if you experience a decline in capacity: “A trust that takes effect during the life of the pet owner can provide instructions for the care of the animal(s) in the event the pet owner becomes incapacitated (sick, injured, comatose, etc.). Since pet owners know the particular habits of their companion animals better than anyone else, they can describe the kind of care their pets should have and list the person(s) who would be willing to provide that care.”
While setting up a trust, one of the most critical decisions is the careful selection of the fiduciary, referred to as a trustee, who will be responsible for administering it. A trustee can be a friend, relation or even a professional. You can learn more about the general duties of a trustee right here. Once you have designated your trustee, be sure to spend time clarifying your intentions and reviewing related documents, accounts and contact information. As a fiduciary, the trustee has an obligation to faithfully carry out the terms of the trust agreement. Given this responsibility, it’s common for the trust agreement to require a trustee bond. As a leading national provider of all types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety makes it easy and efficient to obtain a trustee bond. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even the law office.
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