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Pet Trusts

Pets are often important members of our families. It can be as important to plan for them in our estate planning as to plan for human family members. Our pets are even more dependent on our care.

What is a Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a legal mechanism to provide for the care and maintenance of our pets in the event of disability or death. The “grantor” creates the trust, either during lifetime or a testamentary trust at death. A Trustee will manage the funds and make payments to a designated caregiver. Trusts can be established for any kind of animal and this is especially beneficial for animals that have a longer life span, such as such as horses and parrots.

How to Create A Pet Trust?

Seek the assistance of an attorney who understands your love for animals and can assist you in creating either an inter vivos, during life, trust or a testamentary trust. In Colorado, it is also possible to establish a trust for the offspring “in gestation” of a pet. This protects any offspring that the pet is carrying at the time the pet becomes a trust beneficiary.

Why a Pet Trust?

You can appoint a guardian in a will to care for your pet, however the guardian can not be compelled to use money that you provide for the benefit of the pet. However, a trust is a more formal instrument and the Trustee who manages it has legal obligations enforceable by a court. A trust can be very specific about how you would like funds to be spent on your pet. For example, if your dog has a favorite brand of food, you can specify that the dog be provided with his favorite brand.

Fiduciary Appointments

A fiduciary is a person who is legally obligated to perform duties according to your wishes. For a pet trust, you will have two fiduciaries – the Trustee and the Pet Guardian. They may be the same person. The Trustee will ensure that the funds you leave will be spent for the benefit of the pet, and the Guardian will provide the physical care for the pet. You should confirm with your proposed fiduciaries that they are willing to accept the assignment. No one can be compelled to be a fiduciary and it is a substantial responsibility You should put a great deal of thought into who will best manage your pet’s money, and who will provide the most loving care when selecting your fiduciaries.

Funding the Trust

It is up to you how much money to place in the trust for your pet. Nor is it necessary to be wealthy to have a pet trust. Keep in mind that there will also be fees for operating the trust so plan for that. You can check with your bank for an assessment of fees. You may also want to give compensation to your Trustee and or Guardian for their time. This is not necessary however, and many family members will agree to perform such duties without compensation. You will also want to designate a remainder beneficiary in the event that not all of the funds in the pet trust are used.

Are you looking for a Colorado pet trust attorney in Denver, Stapleton, Cherry Creek or Aurora? At Janko Law we know how to assist families in providing for your loved family members, to include pets, and can advise you of your legal rights and obligations. Give us a call for a free 15-minute case assessment or a paid one-hour in-depth consultation.

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