Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Pet trusts are another option to make sure your pet is cared for after you die or when you become incapacitated. This type of trust is created to provide for the care of your pet during its lifetime. Indiana’s pet trust law was enacted in 2005. When creating a pet trust, there are several issues to consider.
First, you need to name the pets you want cared for. Your trust can involve any of your pets that are alive while you are alive. However, it ends upon the death of your last surviving pet. You cannot create a pet trust to continue indefinitely, such as for your pet’s offspring.
Then, you need to name someone to care for your pets (the trustee). The trustee will be responsible for your pet’s day-to-day care so you should name someone that you trust. You should also ask the trustee first to make sure that they are willing to care for your pet. You should also name an alternate trustee, in case your first choice can’t take your pet when the time comes.
Next, you want to consider how you will fund the trust. You should try to estimate how much the new owner will need to care for your pet. The appropriate amount of money will depend on the pet’s age, condition, and species. You should know that if you set the amount too high, a family member could challenge it in Court and the judge may lower it.
For example, many people are aware of the controversy regarding Leona Helmsley’s dog, Trouble. Ms. Helmsley, the billionaire real estate and hotel tycoon, left $12 million to her dog. A judge ruled that the $12 million exceeded the amount necessary for the dog’s care. So the inheritance was diminished to $2 million, to ensure that Trouble would receive the highest care. Therefore, choose an appropriate amount of money to fund your pet trust.
Caretaking instructions are an important, and often detailed, section of your pet trust. Owners often specify everything for the pet’s care from its favorite food and toys to sleeping arrangements to medical care.
You may also want to name someone to receive the remainder of the trust. If you leave more money than is necessary for the care of your pet, or if your pet dies early, then you want to name someone to receive the leftover money. If you do not name someone, then the remainder will go to the residuary beneficiary in your Will. If you have no residuary beneficiary or no Will, then the remainder will go to your closest relative according to the intestacy laws.
The trust can be enforced by a person appointed in the trust or by someone appointed by the Court (if no one is named). You can name someone in your pet trust to enforce the terms of the trust and make sure the money is being used appropriately. A person who is interested in the welfare of your pet can request the Court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or remove a person appointed to enforce the trust. A pet trust can take effect before your death if you become incapacitated, while your Will only takes effect after your death.