Pets are considered family members by many pet owners. The owners therefore worry about what will happen to their beloved pets after they die and can no longer look after them. Pet owners in this situation may want to ensure that their pets are taken care of by establishing a pet trust with the pet as the beneficiary. The money in the trust could be used to provide shelter, food, and medical care for the pet, in addition to some other comforts.
Some people may plan to name a person in their wills who will care for the pet, even leaving the person some money to do so. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the chosen person will actually care for the pet in the way the deceased owner intended. Similarly, a pet owner’s reliance on a promise from someone to care for a pet is not a guarantee that the person will do so after the pet owner passes away. This is why it is better to leave funds in a pet trust to ensure that the pet has all the needed resources after the owner’s death.
Michigan law allows people to set up pet trusts. Pet trusts can be for one or more animal beneficiaries, and can exist until the last animal named as a beneficiary dies. When setting up the trust, a trustee is selected who will administer the trust and ensure that the animals are provided for according to the terms of the trust. Unless a person allows the trustee of the trust to use the funds for other purposes, the law only allows a trustee to use the trust funds for the benefit of the animal.
It is best to leave a reasonable amount in the pet trust so as to avoid challenges from potential heirs. The amount to be put in the trust depends on various factors including the pet owner’s assets, the age of the pet, and the life expectancy of the pet. If there are multiple pets to benefit from the pet trust, the pet owner may be able to reasonably leave more in the trust than for a single pet.
If there are any funds left over after the last animal covered under the trust dies, the trust funds can be transferred to an individual, a charity, or another organization as instructed under the trust documents. In deciding who should get the money after a pet dies, it is important to consider whether the pet will outlive the proposed recipient. In some cases, it may be wise to have more than one residual beneficiary named.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you are a pet owner who wants to ensure that your beloved animal companion will be well cared for after your death, you should consider using a pet trust. To find out more information and decide if this is an option that would work best for you in light of your other beneficiaries and your overall estate plan, contact Resnick Law, P.C., to consult an experienced estate planning attorneys in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan.
(image courtesy of Marek Szturc)