Pet Trusts – What You Need to Know to Safeguard Your Beloved Animals

Americans are increasing the speed at which we have pets in our homes. According to the ASPCA, there are over 78 million dogs and 85 million cats owned in the United States, with approximately 44% of all households having a dog and 35% having a cat. For most of us, pets are more than just a companion animal; our pets are members of our family. Just as it is important to make sure your children, parents, siblings, and other family members are provided for in your well-rounded estate plan, many clients also wish to ensure that their pets receive the care and support they need if tragedy strikes. The best way to accomplish this goal is to create a pet trust.

The state of Illinois allows for pet trusts, which provide detailed instructions for the care of your pets in the event of your death or disability. This can include language regarding the pet’s medical care, grooming, food, training, and other related pet care issues. You are able to designate a caregiver and fund the pet trust with any amount of funds in order to cover your pet’s well-being if you were to die or become disabled. Without these provisions, it is possible that your beloved pet will end up in a shelter, or worse, if you are no longer able to care for the animals.

The process for setting up a pet trust is relatively simple: work with an estate planning attorney to create documentation that includes specific provisions for your pets to ensure that they are cared for after you are gone. A pet trust is the preferred method of providing for our pets, but there remains the option of simply including your pet in a will rather than establishing a trust. That said, a major issue with planning with a will instead of planning with a trust is the undue delay regarding probate court proceedings, and there is no guarantee as to what will happen once the courts get involved. A trust will avoid the probate court and its litany of potential problems while ensuring that your beloved animals are placed a proper home and receive appropriate care from the most suitable person.

Just as a trust can give someone the peace of mind in knowing their children will be taken care of after they have passed away, a pet trust can achieve the same for our “fur babies.” Ensuring our pets’ well-being is simple and requires little to no extra expense when creating a well-rounded estate plan. As I have written about previously, estate planning is an important legal matter to address during your lifetime. Once you have created a trust, your family members, including your pets, will be appreciative of their continued care even after you are gone. You should consider working with an estate planning attorney to create these safeguards or to revise your existing estate plan accordingly.

Should you wish to discuss these issues or learn more about why estate planning is not only for the rich and famous, please feel free to contact the author, attorney Ryan W. Gardner at Lavelle Law, Ltd., at 312-332-7555.

Disclaimer: This article provides legal information of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship with any person or group of persons. Should you wish to obtain legal advice concerning your particular situation, contact an attorney.