A Trust Gone to the Dogs
When considering your estate plans, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration. One item rarely considered in such planning is what will happen to your pets? Whether it is a service animal, a therapy pet, or a man’s best friend, laws are in place to ensure owners have the right to ensure their animal companion is taken care of accordingly.
Pet trusts, or honorary trusts, became legal in Utah in 1998. With the signing of Utah Code Ann. § , pet owners became able to create a pet trust for the care of one or more domestic pets and animals. The pet needs to be identified by name as a beneficiary, and must be living when the owner passes away.
The owner must also designate an individual to enforce the pet trust or the court may appoint one. That person appointed has the same rights as a trust beneficiary to accountings and reports, being involved in decisions about the pet trust, and enforcing the trust in court if necessary. (Owners can also designate caregivers to provide day to day care).
Funding the trust is also of great importance. Funding should include at minimum the cost for the care of the animal, and may include payment for designated parties.
An honorary trust terminates with the death of the last animal, with the remainder being distributed as per instruction or flowing back to the owner’s estate.
Having these things in mind, it is important to update your pet trust regularly, but especially whenever you obtain or lose a pet. It would be very easy to establish a pet trust for Fido and fail to change the trust a few years later when the kids get Bruno for Christmas.
With or without a pet trust, pet owners should take great care to at least make informal arrangements for pet care in case of emergency or incapacity. Pets still need to be cared for, even as the formal paperwork is processed through the system. Ensure your loved ones and neighbors know what plans you have in place.