Pet owners consider their beloved animals as friends, companions, and probably, as another member of the family. The law however views them only as property and without the proper planning a pet may be inadvertently destined to suffer and a live the remainder of its life without the care it is accustomed to because its owner did not know or was not well advised to establish a plan. Many times a pet owner will entrust his animal to a close friend or family member, but there are many reasons that the owner’s wishes will not be carried out. Many times the pet’s new caregiver may not be able to keep the pet because of allergies, lack of time, conflict with other pets or an apartment management’s prohibition of pets. A pet owner’s only assurance is to draft legally enforceable documents that will guarantee the pets future.
Many pet owners believe that by stating instructions for the care of their pet they are guaranteeing the pets future. They are wrong. Wills are valid after death, and their purpose is to distribute property not to leave standing instructions on how to take care of property. For example, Jerry gets the cat and the car. A will can’t force Jerry to give the car a tune up every few months. In the same manner, a will can’t force Jerry to take care of the cat in any specific way. Additionally, a will doesn’t allow for the pet’s care in case of the owner’s incapacity. A will cannot deal with the possibility that the pet may need to be taken care of during the owner’s lifetime.
Trusts for the care of an animal or “pet trusts” are recognized in 40 states, and unlike a will, provide many protections and advantages. First, the trust is valid during the pet owner’s life and after his death. Pet trusts are usually terminated at the death of the animal or if there are provisions for more than one animal, at the death of the last surviving animal. Second, pet trusts can control the disbursement of funds to the new caregiver. Detailed instructions can be left with provisions on how to use or spend any funds left for the purpose of taking care of the pet. Finally, a pet trust can provide instructions for your pet’s care in case of your incapacity.
Everyone would like to believe that their pet will be well taken care of in the unfortunate case of incapacity or death. No one wants a court to decide their pet’s future and well-being. The best sense of security for anyone is to know that their family and loved ones are provided for, for a pet owner that includes their pet. Discuss your pet’s future with your attorney so that you may ensure that your pet will get nothing but the best care, even after you can’t provide it anymore.