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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have started the process of estate planning, there is a good chance that you have spent some time thinking about how you will distribute your assets among your children, grandchildren, loved ones, and, possibly, charitable organizations. Depending on the size of your family or your circle of friends, it could be quite easy to overlook the pets that might be an important part of your life. Is it possible to look after companion animals like dogs or cats in your estate plan? In short, the answer to that question is yes.

What Are Pet Trusts?

Under Illinois law, a person is permitted to create and fund a trust for the stated purpose of providing for the care of “one or more designated domestic or pet animals.” The applicable part of the Illinois Trusts and Trustees Act (760 ILCS 5/15.2) does not specify the types of animals that can be covered, but a series of cases in Illinois courts have set precedents that allow pet trusts to cover dogs, cats, horses, and several other animals. Livestock, such as cows and sheep, are generally not eligible.

In order to establish a pet trust, you must specifically identify each animal to be cared for with funds owned by the trust. You will need to list the animal’s species and breed (if applicable), as well as its name, age, sex, and any other important factors like implanted microchips or tags. If your animal has any known health concerns, those should be noted as well so that the person you appoint to manage the trust—called the trustee—knows what to expect regarding the animal’s necessary care.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysAlthough the law considers pets to be property, pet owners often think of their pets as family members. If you have a beloved pet, you may want to include him or her in your estate plans. If there is a possibility that your animal companion may outlive you, you may want to include provisions as to how your pet should be cared for after you pass. Read on to learn about how you can plan for your pets future through estate planning.

Why Include Pets in Estate Plans?

If you are an animal lover, you probably worry about your pets often. You may especially worry if your pet requires special care or has a health concern. One reason many people include pets in estate plans is to plan for the possibility that they become incapacitated or pass away before the animal does. Sometimes, when a pet owner dies, their beloved pet can end up at a shelter – especially if no surviving family members are available to care for the pet. Surviving family members may be unable to care for their deceased loved one’s pet due to pet restrictions in their apartment or home, allergies, expense, concern for the children or animals already living in their home, or other reasons. It is best not to assume that your family will care for your pet without making formal arrangements.

Illinois Pet Trusts

Illinois law allows you to create a legal arrangement to provide care for your pet after your death via a pet trust. The person who creates the trust, called a “grantor”, can design the pet trust to take effect during his or her lifetime or upon death. Through a pet trust, a trustee will hold money “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pet. The trustee is expected to use the financial resources to care for the pet in accordance with the instructions contained in the trust agreement. After the animal dies, any remaining funds are distributed as provided in the trust. Trusts, unlike informal arrangements, are legally enforceable. This means that the trustee cannot simply take the money provided through the trust for himself or herself, although he or she can retain a fee for carrying out the decedent’s wishes.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAn estate plan generally involves human heirs, such as children and grandchildren, but this is not always the case. Some individuals have non-human dependents to consider. Does that mean everyone should include their pet in an estate plan? Not necessarily, yet it might be worth considering if there is even the slightest possibility that your companion may outlive you. It is important to realize that this provision might be important, and how you can take the first step toward implementing it in your estate plan.

Why Plan for Your Pets?

When the owner of an animal dies or becomes incapacitated, the animal may end up at a shelters, especially if there are no family members who are willing to take on the responsibilities of surrogate pet ownership. It happens so frequently, in fact, that estimates suggest some 100,000 to 500,000 pets are admitted to a shelter after their owner’s death or incapacitation. How do these once companions end up in shelters?

Often, it is the friends, family, or children of the deceased that surrender them. Perhaps they do not have the room income to care for the animal, or have tried to care for it but do not know how to do so appropriately. Still others might have allergies, small children, or other extenuating circumstances that make caring for an animal difficult or nearly impossible.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe ASPCA estimates that about 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. For many people, their pet is a valued member of the family. They think of their pet not as a piece of property, but as a beloved companion. If you are one of these people, it is important to consider what will happen to your cherished pet when you are not around to care for it. A pet trust is an estate planning tool which can give you piece of mind that your pet will be looked after even if you cannot be the one to do so.

What Is a Pet Trust?

A trust is an arrangement that holds property or money for a beneficiary, often for when the creator of the trust passes away. Since a person cannot leave money or property directly to an animal, a pet trust legally enforceable arrangement regarding how your pet will be cared for in the event that you cannot care for it.

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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.

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