A 1993 law, Section 2-907 of the Uniform Probate Code, changed the treatment of a deceased individual's pet from that of a piece of property to an entity that requires care. As a result, it is possible to ensure that your pets will be provided for after you pass away, not just by willing them to a trusted friend or relative, but through the establishment of a trust.
Pet trusts can establish a way to care for your pet after you die; they can also establish a way to care for your pet if you become unable to do so while you are still alive. The former is called a testamentary trust; the latter is called an inter-vivos trust.

Pet trust laws vary by state, and it's essential to understand these laws when providing for your pet. If you don't have a legal background, it might make sense to hire an attorney familiar with making legal provisions to care for pets after the owner's death. Both types of trusts establish who will care for your pet. They also appoint a trustee whose job is to ensure that your designated caretaker is actually caring for your pet.

A relative could challenge your pet trust in court, and if he or she wins the case, your pet may receive a smaller trust amount and your relative may receive the difference. You can prevent this outcome by paying for a pet retirement home while you are still alive or providing for your pet to receive care through an animal sanctuary. You can also attach a piece of real estate that you own to your pets, and provide for a caretaker to live rent-free on the requirement that he or she care for your animals. Another limitation of pet trusts is that they expire 21 years after your death, so if your pet's expected lifespan is longer than this, it may be difficult to ensure that they receive the care you desire.

Even if you don't want to leave your entire estate to your pet, you will probably want to make some provisions for its care after your incapacitation or death. Without a specific legal document that provides for your pet, the worst-case scenario is that it could be abandoned or taken to an animal shelter and put to sleep. Simply willing your pet to a trusted friend or relative, with contingent beneficiaries in case that friend or relative's death precedes yours, can be enough to ensure that your pet will remain happy and healthy when you are no longer able to care for him or her. However, if your goal is to leave your entire estate to your pet, consult an attorney who can help you establish a pet trust.

  1. Can I put my IRA in a trust?

    You cannot put your IRA in a trust while you are living. You can, however, name a trust as the beneficiary of your IRA and ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between a revocable trust and a living trust?

    A revocable trust and living trust are separate terms that describe the same thing: a trust in which the terms can be changed ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How exactly does one go about revoking a revocable trust?

    The basic steps involved in revoking a revocable trust are fairly simple, and include transfer of assets and an official ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What is the difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust?

    An irrevocable trust and a revocable trust are differentiated through the ability to change the trust. With an irrevocable ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is a family Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

    A family limited liability company (LLC) is formed by family members to conduct business in a state that permits such form ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Common Estate Planning Mistakes

    Estate planning requires careful consideration over the course of years.
  2. Professionals

    Estate Planning Tips

    Estate planning requires careful consideration over the course of years.
  3. Personal Finance

    Your Heirloom Jewelry: How Much Is It Worth?

    You grandma's diamonds are now yours. Whether you plan to keep them or not, you first need an honest appraisal. Here's how to get one.
  4. Insurance

    Life Insurance & Annuities: Sound Investments?

    There are certain scenarios in which investing in insurance is a savvy move. But expect a big chunk of your money to go toward fees.
  5. Personal Finance

    ‘I Just Inherited Money’ Now What?

    If you’re lucky enough to inherit money when you're young, here's how to hold on to it.
  6. Personal Finance

    7 Reasons To Own Life Insurance in an Irrevocable Trust

    An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust helps minimize estate and gift taxes, provides creditor protection and protects government benefits.
  7. Taxes

    Explaining Step-Up In Basis

    A step-up in basis is the increased cost basis of an inherited asset or other security.
  8. Professionals

    How to Handle Client Beneficiary Designations

    Beneficiary designations are a critical financial planning step that can be easily overlooked. Here's how to ensure they are properly done.
  9. Taxes

    Tip for Estate Planning on the Cheap

    Estate planning is an expensive but necessary process for everyone with assets they’d like to eventually distribute. Here's how to keep it affordable.
  10. Personal Finance

    Estate Planning Goes Digital: How to Get Started

    Digital estate planning is an important part of the estate planning process given today's tech-centric world. Here's how to create this type of plan.
  1. Letter of Intent - LOI

    A document outlining the terms of an agreement before it is finalized. ...
  2. Wealth Management

    A high-level professional service that combines financial/investment ...
  3. See-Through Trust

    A trust that is treated as the beneficiary of an individual retirement ...
  4. Settlor

    The entity that establishes a trust. The settlor also goes by ...
  5. Personal Representative

    The executor or administrator for the estate of a deceased person. ...
  6. Contingent Beneficiary

    1. A beneficiary specified by an insurance contract holder who ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  2. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  3. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  4. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
  6. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's costs of production by assessing the input costs of each step ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!