Providing for Our Pets – In Sickness and in Health
February 19, 2018

On February 20th, pet lovers everywhere will observe National Love Your Pet Day.  This day is set aside to give extra attention to and pamper your pets.  It is also a good day to focus on the special relationship that you have with them.  One way you can do that is to consider including your special animal companion in your estate planning process.

Think you have already taken steps to provide for your pet in your current Last Will and Testament?  Think again.   It’s a common misbelief that providing for your pets in a Will is enough to guarantee their continued care.  However, remember that the primary purpose of a Will is to distribute property.  In the eyes of the law, your pet is simply that – property.  Once the task of “assigning” your pet is done, there is generally no ongoing supervision.  This means that although you may have made provisions for a beloved pet in your Will, the person receiving your companion is under no obligation to keep or care for your pet.  But with a pet trust, the trustee has a legal duty to carry out your instructions.

A pet trust is a legal document that provides for the care of your pet in the event of your disability or death.   A pet trust has many of the same features of other estate planning trusts.  There is a grantor who creates the trust, and a trustee who holds the trust assets “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets.  The terms of the trust can be as detailed as you wish, specifying preferences such as food or frequency of trips to the groomer.   Typically, payments to a designated caregiver will be made on a regular basis.  The trust can continue for the life of the pet, although Pennsylvania places a 21-year cap on the trust’s duration.

Trusts are complex legal documents that require a solid understanding of local laws. An improperly formed trust may have no legal effect, leaving your pet to be distributed as property under your Will.  When you want to provide for a beloved pet after you die, you want to know your trust will withstand legal challenge.

If you would like more information, please contact Melissa L. Van Eck, Esquire at Daley Zucker Meilton & Miner, LLC at (717) 724-9821.

Melissa’s interest in the law began when she was only in the 1st grade. Melissa has extensive experience in collections law, bankruptcy and family law. Later she was introduced to estate planning and estate administration. Melissa enjoys helping families and is able to draw on her experiences to empathize with her clients – Read Full Bio