Pets often become honorary members of the family. But what happens to a pet after its owner becomes incapacitated or dies? For pets with longer life expectancies, such as horses, birds and reptiles, this dilemma may be especially poignant.
One solution is to create a trust for the benefit of the animal. The owner may appoint a trustee to manage the funds and appoint a caregiver for the pet. Once the trust is formed, if the pet owner becomes incapacitated or dies, the trust immediately kicks in (without the delay and cost of probate) so that the pet can receive the care it needs.
In New York there is a statutory basis for pet trusts. The Estates, Powers and Trusts Law §7-8.1 allows people to create trusts for pets. A summary of the law is as follows:
(a) A trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal is valid. The intended use of the principal or income may be enforced by an individual designated for that purpose in the trust instrument. Such trust shall terminate when the living animal beneficiary or beneficiaries of such trust are no longer alive.
(b) Except as expressly provided otherwise in the trust instrument, no portion of the principal or income may be converted to the use of the trustee or to any use other than for the benefit of all covered animals.
(c) Upon termination, the trustee shall transfer the unexpended trust property as directed in the trust instrument or, if there are no such directions in the trust instrument, the property shall pass to the estate of the grantor.
The grantor (i.e. person creating the trust) may designate a charity such as a local animal shelter to receive any remaining funds after the pet dies.
While a pet trust may not be desirable for the common cats and dogs scenario, a pet trust may be especially prudent for animals that live longer, such as horses, birds or tortoises.
If you have any questions about pet trusts, estate planning or any other trusts and estates related issue, please do not hesitate to call us at (914) 338-8050.
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The Law Offices of Keith R. Betensky, Esq.
The Empire Building
26 Village Green, Suite 4
P.O. Box 22
Bedford, New York 10506-0022