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All dogs might go to heaven, but what if their owners get there first?

For many pet owners, a dog or cat is like another member of the family. In fact, many young people are treating their pets as children or as a training for eventual children. Further, dog dads and cat moms spend around $1000 per year on pet supplies and are prepared to spend about $2000 should their furry friend fall ill. With such investment – both economic and emotional – made in these animals, protecting them should be part of any owner’s estate plan.

What is a Trust for Care of an Animal?

In Tennessee (and many other states) your estate planner can help you set up an honorary trust for your pets. Honorary trusts are little more than powers of appointment, but an honorary trust for a pet is given validity in statute to last for up to 90 years and provide for the animal. Tennessee code allows the creation of such a trust for an animal alive during the life of the person writing the will (the settlor). The trust lasts for the lifetime of the animal or 90 years, whichever comes first. Multiple animals can also be protected; the trust would then terminate at the death of the last surviving animal or 90 years.

Unless the pet covered is a tortoise, the odds of hitting the 90 year mark is slim, and the trust should ideally provide for the life of the animal. The fund allocated to the trust must be used for the “intended use” of taking care of the animals. This use can include veterinary bills, food, and necessary amounts of catnip.

Who Takes Care of My Pets?

An appointed trustee oversees the trust and makes sure that your funds are being used appropriately for your pet. If, however, that trustee is not performing their duties, a “person having an interest in the welfare of the animal” can request the court to have someone else oversee the trust and/or remove the trustee. Therefore, as with all trusts, making sure you appoint a trustee who will act in the best interests of the furry beneficiaries is paramount.

Creating a Trust for the Care of an Animal

If you want to make sure your animals are provided for after your death, including a provision in your will that establishes a trust for your pet(s) and explains how you want them taken care of is the best way to do so. Leaving your pets out of your will is likely to result in your animals being dealt with by your Executor – allowing the Executor to make decisions about your pets and rest of your property. By having a trust for your animals, you help your Executor in the administration of your estate by removing one more thing from their to-do list.

Looking for more information? Call 615-852-5679 or schedule a consultation.

The Brown Cats

Jade Desdemona Brown: Head Purralegal
Jasper Absalom Brown: Scheduler/Caterer
Judge Augustus Brown: Compliance Department

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Post Author: Zachary Brown

Zachary Walker Brown is a Nashville estate planning attorney who also works in the areas of government relations and small business law.

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