Leaving money to take care of pets is usually the stuff of Hollywood stories; however, it is a real issue for pet lovers. Leona Helmsley left her beloved pet twelve million dollars. Prior to the adoption of pet trust statutes bequests by pet owners to the pet in a will or trust would be the source of litigation because pets are considered chattel property and legally could not be a beneficiary of a trust. It is easier to do today because 44 of the 50 states have enacted pet trust legislation that allows a person to provide for the care of their pet if the pet outlives them. Most of these statutes are based on the Uniform Trust Code and have the following features.
The trust may be created to care for an animal during the settlors lifetime. It terminates on the death of the animal or if there was more than one animal on the death of the last surviving animal.
The trust may be enforced by a person named by the settlor or if none was appointed by a person appointed by the court.
Property of the trust can only be used for the purposes intended by the trust except to the extent the court determines the value of the trust is more than what is needed to care for the pet.
The only states that do not have pet trust legislation are Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Many persons who set up pet trusts stipulate that after the death of the pet remaining proceeds should go to an organization concerned about the welfare of animals such as the humane society.
This is complicated area of the law not really suited for self-help. See the counsel of an attorney familiar with your states trust laws to ensure a pet trust will accomplish your goals of taking care of your family member who is least able to take care of himself