News & Insights

Pet Trusts
August 18, 2015
by Marcellus Lebbin

 

South Bend / Mishawaka, IN –  Many pet owners worry about what will become of their animals when they are no longer around to care for them. For owners who have strived to provide a comfortable quality of life for their pets during their lifetime, the thought of relying on someone else for their care is especially troublesome. Fortunately, since 2005, Indiana residents have had the option of creating a trust to care for their animals. This type of trust is ideal for individuals seeking peace of mind knowing his or her pets will be taken care of once he or she is no longer around to care for them.

Since Indiana law regards pets as personal property, money cannot be left to the animals themselves. However, rather than simply bequeathing money to a friend, and crossing your fingers they’ll take care of your pet, with a pet trust, a caregiver is named and a trustee is appointed–whose duty it is to keep an eye on how the money reserved for the pet is being spent. As per Indiana law, property of the trust may be applied only to the trust’s intended use. The trust can spell out any detail the pet owner deems important, from the type of food the pet should be fed, to how frequently the pet should be taken to the groomer. However, if the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the trust’s intended use, the excess can go to remainder beneficiaries, such as living relatives or a non-profit organization that cares for animals.

A pet trust can be created for any animal alive during the lifetime of the settlor, and the trust terminates with the death of the last surviving animal. Any money that remains in the trust after the death of the animal will go to the named remainder beneficiary.

While pet trusts offer a level of protection in Indiana for pets that was not previously available, it is still important to be as specific as possible when drafting a trust for the care of your pet. In order to ensure your pet enjoys the same quality of living it has become accustomed to, it is important to leave detailed instructions noting food preferences, grooming schedules, exercise and play routines, and veterinary care.

Furthermore, to avoid potential pet identity fraud, it is vital to include detailed information identifying your pet. It is also a wise to leave instructions for the trustee to regularly inspect the pet for identification purposes.  This ensures that once your pet dies the caregiver cannot simply buy a similar replacement and continue to collect the stipend that is often included as wages for the caregiver.

Planning for loved ones after you pass is a priority for most people, so why not make sure your loyal companions are protected as well? If you’re interested in making sure your dogs, cats, caged rabbits, spider monkeys, etc. are sufficiently cared for after your death, I would be happy to assist you in drafting a pet trust.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Your matter is factually sensitive and unique, and you should not rely on this article, this website, or prior results to predict the outcome of your case.

 

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