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Caring for Your Furry Friends Through a Pet Trust

Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyerIn the process of preparing your estate plan, you have probably given a great deal of thought to which of your children, grandchildren, or other loved ones will receive certain assets or a portion of your estate. For example, if you only have one soon-to-be teenage grandchild, you may decide that he or she should inherit your paid-off car. With all of these considerations to be made, it can be relatively easy to forget about the companion animals with whom you share you home. Can your estate plan include provisions for caring for your dog or cat after your death?

Understanding Pet Trusts

The short answer is yes. There are ways that you can provide for the protection and well-being of domestic animals in your estate plan. Illinois law allows you to establish a trust with the sole purpose of providing care for “one or more designated domestic or pet animals.” The law itself is not very specific as to what types of animals may be covered, but case law precedents have been set to allow for the care of dogs, cats, horses, and a variety of others.

If you wish to establish a trust for the care of your beloved pets, you will need to identify each covered animal individually, including its name, age, sex, species, breed (if possible) and other distinguishable factors, such as tags or microchips. Known health conditions should also be listed so that your trustee—the person appointed to oversee the trust—has a good understanding of what to expect in the years to come.

Setting Your Expectations

Your pet trust should also include the level of care you expect to be provided for the designated animals. After all, it is your money being used, and you have the right to decide how it should be spent. This also makes your choice of trustee very important, as he or she must be willing to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you prescribe.

You may also wish to offer the intended caregiver the authority to sell or give away the animal if the right situation should arise. For example, if you have asked your caregiver to provide a loving home to your longtime pet dog who is wonderful with children, and a year down the road, another family member asks to adopt your dog, does the caregiver have permission to allow the adoption?

Closing a Pet Trust

A trust established for the care of a pet or pets is only permitted to remain in effect during the lifetime of the designated animals. When the last designated animal dies or is no longer under the care of your named caregiver, the trust must be terminated. With that in mind, you should also consider who will receive the property or assets that remain in the trust upon termination. Should they go to another family member? Should they be donated to an animal rescue shelter? Or maybe they should go to your caregiver in recognition for his or her efforts. Whatever you decide, be sure to include the terms in your trust documents to be sure they are properly executed.

If you would like to learn more about pet trusts in Illinois, contact an experienced Lombard estate planning attorney today. Call A. Traub & Associates to schedule a consultation at one of our three convenient office locations.

 

Sources:

https://www.isba.org/sections/animallaw/newsletter/2010/06/pettrustbasics

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/076000050k15.2.htm


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