When pet owners craft an estate plan, they want to know their animals will be protected regardless of what happens to the owner. Fortunately, modern estate plans have a variety of tools available for pet owners to use to protect their beloved animal companions. In today’s edition of our ongoing series on understanding estate planning, we will take a closer look at what pet owners in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma can do if they want to protect their pets with their estate plans.
We often get questions from people who want to use inheritances to protect their animals. Many people ask if they can simply leave an inheritance to their animals through their last will and testament. While this seems like a natural way to protect your pets, it isn’t really possible because of the legal status of animals and their inability to own property.
Unlike people, pets and other animals are not legally allowed to own property, and do not have the same rights as humans. This makes planning for your pets somewhat more complicated than planning for the people close to you because you need to use specific tools designed to protect the interests of the animals you love.
A pet trust is a trust designed specifically to protect the needs of your pets and other animals. Like other forms of trusts, a pet trust is managed by a trustee who is responsible for ensuring the property owned by the trust is used for the benefit of its beneficiary. That beneficiary is not, as you might expect, your pet.
Instead, the pet trust is designed to support a caregiver who will take care of your animals or pets. The caregiver is responsible for caring for the animal, providing food, shelter, affection, and necessary medical or other pet-related expenses. The trustee is responsible for reimbursing the caregiver for any expenses he or she incurs while caring for the pets.
Like other trusts, pet trusts must comply with relevant legal standards. In addition, there are limitations on pet trusts of which you should be aware before you decide to create one. For example, you can only use a pet trust to care for the needs of animals you own while you are alive. You cannot use the trust to pay for the needs of additional animals the caregiver might want to acquire in the future.
For more information about pet trusts and how you can incorporate them into your estate plan, please feel free to call us at your convenience.