Like most pet owners I am obsessed with my dog. My dog is sweet, caring and always by my side. He comforts me when I am sick and vice versa. We are the perfect pair. But what would happen if I unexpectedly died and he was left without me? Who would care for him? For many pet owners this is a real concern, so pet trusts were created to take care of our furry friends after our departure.
Between 12 and 27 percent of pet owners create a pet trust or provisions in their wills, according to the Washington University School of Law. Pet trusts have become so popular that 39 U.S states now have laws regarding them. A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement that provides for the care and maintenance for pets in the event of an owner’s disability or death.
Someone who creates a trust would be called the “settlor”, and the person who is entrusted with the fund is called the “trustee”. In the case of pets they are assigned a trustee to care for them. When necessary, the trustee will hold the property such as cash, “in trust” for the settlor’s pets. The trustee becomes the designated caregiver for the pet and is in charge of all aspects of it’s life including health and financial well-being. There are several things you need to review before creating a trust for your pet.
1. State Laws
When creating a pet trust you must make sure the laws are legal in your state as each state is different and some don’t even accept pet trusts as valid.
It’s important to properly plan for each type of pet, animals such as horses and birds often times live longer than dogs or cats and require different care. Do you have specific directions in your trust? Does your cat eat a specific type of food? Do you walk your dog in a specific part of town? Who is your veterinarian and what medications do your pets need? You know your pet better than anyone. By writing down their specific habits and care for your pet in your will it will help make the trustee’s job easier.
3. Designate a Trustee
When designating a trustee make sure you ask the person you wish to designate beforehand and make sure they understand the role they are going to take. Designating a trustee is like designating a new parent, make sure they are ready for the dedication it will take to trust your pet with them.
There are many things that go into building a pet trust. First you must identify your pet in order to prevent fraud. photos, microchip identification and DNA samples are some things that may be needed.
You must then determine the amount of assets needed to cover the expenses for your pet’s care. Specifying how the funds should be distributed and providing all care instructions are necessary. Also, document how you want your pet to buried when they are gone. So many things need to be considered when creating a proper pet trust.
Famous Pet Trusts
There have been many famous cases of pet trusts, a number of which have inherited large fortunes. One such case is of a Maltese named Trouble. Hotel heiress Leona Helmsely died in 2007 and made her Maltese her biggest heir, leaving her a $12 million trust fund that disinherited her two grandchildren. The dog’s inheritance was later lessened by a judge to $2 million and Trouble then took the money and retired. She flew on a private jet to Helmsley’s Sandcastle hotel in Florida where the hotel’s manager cared for the dog. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent annually caring for Trouble, including an approximate $1,200 on food, $8,000 on grooming and $100,000 on full time security as Trouble received multiple death threats. The Maltese passed away at the age of 12 and her remaining money went to the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
The richest pet trust went to Gunther III , a German Shepherd. When his owner Carlotta Liebenstein , a German countess , died in 1991 she left her $372 million dollar fortune to her dog, making him the wealthiest pet in the world. Unfortunately Gunther III died a month after his owner, passing on his fortune to his son Gunther IV. Gunther IV was said to have his own personal maid, a chauffeur-driven limo and allegedly even has a home in Miami that was once owned by Madonna.
Famous British fashion designer Alexander McQueen took his own life in 2010, but before he did so he left $81,000 for the care of his three English bull terriers; Minter, Juice and Callum. The money was put into a trust for the canines and will care for them the rest of their lives. The rest of McQueen’s remaining fortune was donated to other animal charities.
So if you are considering creating a trust for your pet, take into account everything required to give your pet the best life possible after you pass. You don’t have to put millions into a trust for your precious pets, it’s more important to think carefully about what is needed for a trust. To ensure the best possible care for your pets discuss any future scenarios with your pet’s future caretaker to make sure they are on board and fully understand their potential responsibility. Remember to lay out exact care instructions and use a prominent pet trust attorney to make sure your pet will be well cared for. If you love your pets and see them as your children like I do, consider the idea of creating a trust for them to ensure them a loving future.