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Pet Trusts as a Part of an Estate Plan

Increasingly, state laws are changing to reflect the importance of the relationship between us and our beloved pets. This means that some laws are no longer treating pets solely as property during a divorce, and are allowing funds to be left for Fido or Fluffy in the event of death or incapacitation.

 The development of pet trusts is a part of the animal rights movement and they allow owners to stipulate what they would like to happen to their pet in the event they are no longer able to take care of them and are not able to communicate these preferences. Just like trusts for your kids, these trust funds will hold property (usually cash) for the benefit of the grantor’s pets. Payment to the designated caregiver will be distributed on a regular basis.

This caregiver has the responsibility of providing the care stipulated by the grantor and will be monitored in their behavior by a trustee, who has the right to find a replacement at any time if it is found the caregiver’s actions are not satisfactory.

If you do not make such arrangements, there is a chance your pet could be taken into a shelter and even put to sleep. According to the organization “2nd Chance 4 Pets,” a nonprofit who raises awareness for this problem, more than 500,000 pets are killed in shelters and veterinary offices each year after their owners die. Most people don’t make formal legal arrangements because they assume they will outlive their pet or family will take the pet in.

Leaving money to your pet became legally possible in 1990, when a section validating trusts for domestic animals was added to the Uniform Probate Code. Georgia Law’s pet trust law went into effect in July 2010 and most states have similar legislation. The pet trust can be included in your will or can be established in a separate trust. In Georgia, the trust will terminate upon the death of the animal in question, or, if multiple were involved, the death of the last surviving animal. Some states only allow a 21 year maximum for pet trusts, which can cut short funding for animals with longer life spans, such as horses and parrots.

The importance of setting up a pet trust may escape some people, but you should consider whether it would be acceptable to you for your pet to be put to sleep or suffer in a shelter in case you are no longer able to take care of it. It is easy to set up a pet trust when you take care of all of your other estate documents. To start planning for your loved one’s future and give yourself peace of mind, call one of our estate planning lawyers at 770-609-1247 today.

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