Who will take care of your pet if something happens to you? We have two dogs. They are just brown furry fellows from the pound, but we love them. Before I became a lawyer, we really never thought about what would happen to them if tragedy struck us. We were not alone. Most folks have probably never though much about what would happen to Buster or Fluffy in the event of a death or serious disability to the humans.
Unfortunately, without a plan, your beloved companion is more likely to wind up in a shelter than with a family member or neighbor.
Many pet owners consider their cat, dog, or other pet to be a beloved member of the family, and worry about their care in the event something unexpected was to happen. However, most pet owners have made no plans for their pet's care in the event of the owner's death or incapacity.
Today, many states, including North Carolina, allow pet guardians to utilize legal arrangements, called "pet trusts" to ensure adequate care and protection for their four-legged family members. Simplified, a pet trust is a specific legal arrangement that provides for the care of beloved animals in the event of the owner’s death or incapacitation.
A pet trust is essentially a trust created for the benefit of the designated pet or pets. The pet owner gives money or property to another designated person or company (such as a bank), with instructions that the money be used for the care and maintenance of the pet in case of the owner's death or disability. If the pet owner dies before their pets, the designated person or bank (the trustee) is under a legal duty to make sure the pet goes to a designated caregiver. The trustee is also responsible for using the money in the trust for costs of the pet's care.
Pet trusts are often not overly difficult or expensive to create. However, there are financial planning issues that must be considered when drafting a proper pet trust. Often pet trusts are included as a part of other forms of estate planning. It is always wise to consult an attorney when considering any type of estate plan, including a pet trust.