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Setting up a trust to provide for pets

Many Pennsylvania residents consider their companion animals to be cherished members of the family, and they often worry about what would happen to their beloved pets is they were no longer able to care for them. The law views pets as personal property no different than a piece of furniture or jewelry, so they cannot be bequeathed money in an owner's will. However, setting up a trust to provide for companion animals is a viable and increasingly popular option for pet lovers around the country.

While some may consider trusts for pets as overindulgent and excessive, the sad truth is that many cherished pets find themselves in shelters after their owners have passed away. There are three types of trusts that pet owners who wish to avoid this unfortunate situation commonly choose from.

While traditional trusts have long been the accepted way to provide for pets, two more straightforward options designed specifically with pets in mind are becoming more common. Statutory pet trusts are clauses inserted into wills stipulating that certain monies be set aside and placed in trust to care for pets. However, these arrangements only allocate money and cannot include instructions concerning how the animals will be cared for. Pet protection agreements are legally binding documents entered into between the owner and the individual who will be caring for the pet.

Attorneys with estate planning experience may suggest that trusts set up to care for pets be funded by some or all of the proceeds of life insurance policies. Doing this means that owners need not set aside money right away. If the proceeds of life insurance are to be used for this purpose, the trustee should be named as the policy's beneficiary. Attorneys could also recommend trusts to individuals who do not own pets as they can often provide additional privacy.

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