Why Pet Parents need a Houston Pet Trust Attorney

Though historically it has been a lesser explored area of estate planning, today more people are going the extra mile to make arrangements for their beloved pets via a  pet trust or wills, set up a with a pet trust attorney. According to the American Pet Products Association in 2015, it was estimated that a staggering forty-four percent of all U.S. households have a dog and thirty-five percent have a cat. Still others are owners of exotic birds and horses whose care and maintenance may be specific and costly.

For many pet owners, their animal companions are more than just a pet. These pets have become an integral part of the family and their owners want to make sure they are well cared for, which is why having an estate plan that includes your pet is necessary.  Working with qualified Houston estate planning attorneys or an estate planning law firm who understand what a pet trust attorney can do to help Houston Pet owners to set up a pet trust can do just that.

For more information and client stories about pet trusts, see our related podcast episode and youtube video on this topic.

What Is a Pet Trust?

As a pet parent, did you know that there are a few Houston law firm trust attorneys that will handle a pet trust.  A pet trust is a modern-day element of estate planning for the individual who dearly loves their pets and wants to provide for them. From a Houston pet trust attorney’s standpoint, this type of trust is typically used to ensure that in the event that an owner becomes disabled or passes away, their animal will still be properly cared for. It is becoming more common for a Houston estate planning attorney to include provisions for pets.

There are two primary kinds of pet trusts:

Traditional Pet Trust

This set up requires a trustee to aide the pet’s future caregiver by paying for expenses as set forth in the owner’s instructions. This arrangement is based upon the fact that the caregiver is properly caring for the pet in question.

Statutory Pet Trust

Of the two, the statutory pet trust is more basic in nature and does not require the pet owner to make as many specifications regarding the trust’s terms.

The type of trust a pet owner chooses is largely based on personal preference. However, many owners opt for the traditional pet trust simply because it gives them an increased degree of control.

For a pet trust to be legally sound, it is highly recommended that pet owners work with an estate planning attorney that has knowledge and experience in establishing these trusts.

How A Pet Trust Works

In terms of a pet trust, the owner can arrange for money and/or property to go to a trust where a trustee, either a trusted individual, or an entity such as a bank, will then take on the responsibility of taking care of and making arrangements for the pet as instructed.

The trustee can also be the animal caregiver, but this is not always the case. It may be necessary to have a trustee who invests and disburses trust funds for the care of the animal, and a different person who actually takes care of and houses the animal. Owners choosing a future caretaker or guardian for their pet should ensure that the person is willing and able to take on this responsibility. It may be beneficial to list one to two alternate pet caregivers as an added precaution to ensure a pet is well cared for. Depending on the type of pet trust, in the event that a trust doesn’t name a caregiver, or the named person(s) is unable to take on the role, the trustee will be the one to select a caregiver after the owner has passed to help provide the best care for the animal(s).

In the event that the pet owner becomes disabled or passes away, the pet will be delivered to the individual’s heirs or predetermined caregiver along with appropriate access to the money or property (likely through a trustee) the owner established for caring for the pet and covering its expenses.

Houston Pet Trust Attorney

The owner can choose to leave specific instructions in a pet trust such as:

  • The pet’s nutrition, daily activities, socialization, and medical care (including naming a specific veterinarian)
  • Rules regarding grooming and cages
  • Caregiver compensation
  • Procedure for reimbursement of expenses
  • Insurance for the pet
  • Actions to be taken upon the pet’s passing

When a Pet Trust in Houston May Be Appropriate

If you are a pet owner who has a close relationship with their animal and want to ensure the animal is provided for if something happens to you, a pet trust is an excellent solution. These trusts are a form of estate planning and are open to individuals who would like to fund the trust and make specific arrangements for their pets. Additionally, there are some pets, like parrots, that have life spans that could easily eclipse that of their owners. In these cases, the owner may want to make arrangements for this pet for after they are gone.

Pet owners can find a great deal of peace of mind knowing that their special companion will be taken care of when needed, and the process can be relatively easy when working with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Funding A Pet Trust

For a pet trust to be effective, it must be funded. This can be done via many different forms, and it should take into account the length of life that the pet should expect and the cost of care in that time span. It is worth noting that depositing unusually large amounts of money or property to the trust is highly discouraged as it may result in the deceased’s beneficiaries and heirs contesting the trust. Furthermore, if the initial amount left to the pet is considered by a court to be outlandish, it could essentially reduce that amount to something considered more reasonable.

Some of the more traditional ways of funding a pet trust can include:

Direct Transfers

This is where the pet owner transfers property or money to the trustee before death, or more commonly, after the owner passes through their probate estate. The transfer of money to the trust must be well documented in terms of who it is given to, identifying them as the trustee of the trust, and what the money is to be used for. Land transfers typically require a deed and must also be specific about identifying the trustee it is being given to, as well as that it should be used expressly for the pet trust.

Life Insurance

In the instance of a pet trust, a pet owner’s life insurance policy can name the trustee as a beneficiary for the purpose of taking care of the pet. This option is frequently utilized by individuals who do not have sufficient property to help pay for their pet’s future care.

Payment Upon Death

A person with bank accounts, retirement plans, annuities, and other similar arrangements may have any remaining money in these payable upon their death to a trustee of a pet trust.

Pour Over Will Provision

Pet owners that create a trust while they are still living may be able to add what is termed a pour over from their estate directly to the trust.

In any of the above situations, individuals are strongly encouraged to seek an estate planning attorney’s help in ensuring these funding methods are both sound and legal.

To learn more about how to make sure your beloved pet is taken care of even after you can no longer actively do this for them, reach out to a qualified estate planning attorney today.