M&R Law Explains How to Take Care of Your Pets After You're Gone - M&R Law – Mahoney & Richmond, PLLC
Pet Trusts Are For Everyone

When I mention pet trusts, many people chuckle at the concept. They probably think of Leona Helmsley leaving $12 million in trust for her Maltese, “Trouble,” (though the back story is that funds left in Trouble’s trust were added to Helmsley’s foundation upon the Maltese’s death).

Pet trusts are not just for the rich and famous, and they usually are not as heavily funded as Helmsley’s. Instead, pet trusts should be funded with enough money to reasonably cover the expenses of the animal’s care and well-being (for example, food, vet bills, grooming) in the event the pet outlives its owner. Pet trusts allow us to provide for our animals not just when we are well and capable, but also in the event of our disability or death. The common result of not planning is heart-breaking – pets that go unfed for lengthy periods of time – and that are ultimately left to rescue organizations to re-home them.

What Pets Typically Need Pet Trusts

While it is possible for any pet to outlive us, certain pets with longevity, such as parrots, are quite likely to do just that. High-maintenance animals, like horses, require extensive funds for upkeep and are often difficult to place in a good home.  Examples like these highlight the critical need pet trusts address.

Pet Trusts Are A Part Of The Law

Over the past decade, most states across the U.S. have codified the validity of pet trusts into the law, recognizing the prominent place of our animal family members in our lives and their need for legal protection. In Virginia, a pet owner may establish a trust that (1) provides the financial means to care for a pet for the remainder of the pet’s life; (2) appoints a trustee (person or entity) to manage the trust funds; (3) designates a “guardian” to offer a loving home for the pet, and (4) names an additional party to stand in for the pet in a legal cause of action should there be malfeasance on the part of the guardian or trustee. Pet trusts help ensure that there is always an advocate to protect our beloved animals who cannot speak for themselves.

How Pet Trusts Work

You can fund a pet trust while you are living, or upon your death, depending on your objectives. Some clients carve out a percentage of their estate for their pet’s care or designate their pet trust as the beneficiary of a portion of their life insurance. The planning phase of establishing a pet trust includes selecting the source(s) of assets to fund the trust, designating the responsible parties who will carry out the purpose of the trust (with focus on accountability in the care of the animal and use of the funds), preparing detailed instructions and identifying information for the animal’s guardian, trustee and advocate, all to ensure as seamless a transition as possible in care of the pet.

Pet Trusts Are For Everyone

When I mention pet trusts, many people chuckle at the concept. They probably think of Leona Helmsley leaving $12 million in trust for her Maltese, “Trouble,” (though the back story is that funds left in Trouble’s trust were added to Helmsley’s foundation upon the Maltese’s death).

Pet trusts are not just for the rich and famous, and they usually are not as heavily funded as Helmsley’s. Instead, pet trusts should be funded with enough money to reasonably cover the expenses of the animal’s care and well-being (for example, food, vet bills, grooming) in the event the pet outlives its owner. Pet trusts allow us to provide for our animals not just when we are well and capable, but also in the event of our disability or death. The common result of not planning is heart-breaking – pets that go unfed for lengthy periods of time – and that are ultimately left to rescue organizations to re-home them.

What Pets Typically Need Pet Trusts

While it is possible for any pet to outlive us, certain pets with longevity, such as parrots, are quite likely to do just that. High-maintenance animals, like horses, require extensive funds for upkeep and are often difficult to place in a good home.  Examples like these highlight the critical need pet trusts address.

Pet Trusts Are A Part Of The Law

Over the past decade, most states across the U.S. have codified the validity of pet trusts into the law, recognizing the prominent place of our animal family members in our lives and their need for legal protection. In Virginia, a pet owner may establish a trust that (1) provides the financial means to care for a pet for the remainder of the pet’s life; (2) appoints a trustee (person or entity) to manage the trust funds; (3) designates a “guardian” to offer a loving home for the pet, and (4) names an additional party to stand in for the pet in a legal cause of action should there be malfeasance on the part of the guardian or trustee. Pet trusts help ensure that there is always an advocate to protect our beloved animals who cannot speak for themselves.

How Pet Trusts Work

You can fund a pet trust while you are living, or upon your death, depending on your objectives. Some clients carve out a percentage of their estate for their pet’s care or designate their pet trust as the beneficiary of a portion of their life insurance. The planning phase of establishing a pet trust includes selecting the source(s) of assets to fund the trust, designating the responsible parties who will carry out the purpose of the trust (with focus on accountability in the care of the animal and use of the funds), preparing detailed instructions and identifying information for the animal’s guardian, trustee and advocate, all to ensure as seamless a transition as possible in care of the pet.