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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 living trusts attorneyWhen you are beginning to prepare an estate plan, it is important to remember that you are not just planning for the time after your death. An estate plan is necessary for more than just the rich—though that designation can be quite misleading. An estate plan is an outline set up by anyone—including those in lower- and middle-class income sectors—that determines what will happen to one’s assets and property. For those who may tend toward the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, it may be in your best interest to establish a living trust, which is a tool that can be used to manage your assets while you are still alive. Among other benefits, living trusts can useful in protecting certain assets and maintaining eligibility for government financial aid programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Two Types of Living Trusts

There are two main types of living trusts: irrevocable and revocable. The vast majority of living trusts are revocable, meaning that they can be amended or revoked at any time by the creator. When you create a living trust, the assets you select are transferred to the trust and ownership is in the trust’s name rather than in the name of an individual. Your designated trustee then administers the trust, meaning that the trustee makes decisions for the leveraging, sale, or gift of any assets in the trust. Most people name themselves the trustee of their own living trusts, meaning that there is essentially no difference in the way that one administers his or her own assets—only that they are now technically owned under the umbrella of the trust.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyPlanning a trust can initially feel like an overwhelming task, especially when arranging it in tandem with a will. The reality, though, is that establishing a trust can be a very effective tool if you want to be able to transfer your property or certain assets to someone while you are still alive. Whereas a will is a plan that is only executed after you pass on, a trust is a planning tool that can be carried out while you are still living. 

What Is the Purpose of a Trust?

The state of Illinois allows a trust to be “created by a will, deed, agreement, declaration or other written instrument”. State law says that the person establishing a trust may indicate any rights, powers, duties, or limitations applicable to the chosen trustee when establishing the trust. Additionally, the grantor (the person creating the trust) may also specify any immunities that are applicable to the trustee or beneficiary.

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