Many of us consider our pets to be like our children. When planning our estates, we always look to provide for our children after we pass away, but what can we do to look after our pets?
Pennsylvania has a law that provides for that, at 20 Pa.C.S. Section 7738, titled “Trust for care of animal”, which permits a trust to be created for the care of animals, so long as several criteria are met.
The animal or animals must be alive during the trust creator’s (called a settlor in the law) lifetime, and the trust terminates upon the death of the last surviving animal covered by the trust. The law provides that the trust can be enforced by the person named as caregiver in the instrument, or, if none, then by a person appointed by the court.
Further, anyone having an interest in the welfare of the animals may petition the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust, or to remove an appointed person. Finally, the law states that the property designated for the care of the animals may only be used for that purpose; however, if a court determines that the trust property exceeds the amount required, it can order the excess assets to be distributed to the settlor, if living, or to his or her successors in interest (heirs).
What does this mean to pet lovers?
It means that, if you want to assure that your pets (or your other animals) are taken care of, you should address that in your Will. Although a separate trust can be created, the value of the assets would likely not justify the cost and effort to administer such a trust (unless you want to create a trust for the care of your animals while you are alive, say if you were to go into a nursing home).
However, if your goal is to provide for the care of animals after you pass away, a trust can be set up in your Will to take effect upon your death. That will allow you to state how much you fund into the trust, and most importantly, whom you want to care for your animals. It would also allow you to pick another person to monitor the welfare of your pets, to assure that the person you appointed to care for them is doing so properly; if the monitor feels that is not the case, the law allows him or her to go to court to have the caregiver removed from that role.
This planning can make good sense. After all, we provide for guardians for our minor children; why not for our beloved animal family members? Failure to provide for the care of our pets as a result of our disability or after our death leaves that decision to others who may not have the same regard or affection for our animals as we do.
By setting up in advance a means to have them cared for, and selecting the people we want to do so, we are controlling the fate of our beloved animals, and assuring that they will live out their full natural lives happily.
If you want to get started on your estate planning and/or a pet trust – join us for one of our upcoming workshops. Just click here to find out more.