What happens to my pets if something happens to me?
Despite occupying a special place in our hearts, pets are considered property like any other item you own. You may leave your pet(s) to an individual of your choosing in your Will. However, this does not ensure that person has the resources to care for your furry loved one. The best way to ensure our pets receive care after we pass involves a pet trust.
Why use a trust?
Although animals are living beings, they cannot hold title, meaning animals cannot own property outright. Because you cannot leave a gift to your animal, you must place a gift in trust. A trust is merely a legal instrument about which you can read more here. The gift in the trust remains overseen by the trustee.
Are pet trusts valid in Texas?
Yes, the Texas Property Code section 112.037 permits individuals to establish a trust for their pets. The trust may be an intervivos trust or a testamentary trust. An intervivos trust is created during your lifetime, while a testamentary trust is created at the time of death by your will. An intervivos trust may be revocable, meaning you may terminate the trust as you wish.
Does the trust work if I am disabled?
The answer to this question is: it depends. A Will creates a testamentary trust after an individual passes. Naturally, this means a testamentary trust to care for pets will not be created so long as a disabled person remains living. In short, testamentary trusts would not help care for your pets in the event of a disability.
On the other hand, an intervivos trust becomes effective as soon as it is settled (legalese for created). Generally, most people name themselves as the first trustee for purposes of establishing the trust. Then, the settlor (the trust creator) names an alternate trustee, the individual who would run the trust in the event the settlor becomes unable to serve (by death or disability).
Another consideration accompanying intervivos trusts is funding the trust. As state above, a trust is just a legal instrument. The trust’s settlor must place funds into the trust. Without funds, the trustee has no means to carry out the trust function, which is caring for the pet(s). It remains important to discuss options for funding trusts with your estate planning attorney. Testamentary trusts are usually funded through the Will.
What should I consider when making a pet trust?
A pet trust instructs the trustee on the care of the animal and gives the trustee the resources to carry out that care. Most items an individual creating a pet trust should consider include that which are associated with caring for an animal such as:
- medical care;
- food / nutrition;
- walking / exercise;
- compensation for the person caring for your pet, etc.
How do I set up a pet trust?
Consult with a Texas estate planning lawyer, like myself, who can help you establish your pet trust and go over the details of your estate plan. Of course, with estate planning matters it is better to address issues now rather than wait later and hope they work out.