If you are like me, your pets are family members. It just makes sense to provide for them after your death, just like you would provide for a child or spouse. A Pet Trust is a great way to do just that. Michigan law recognizes Pet Trusts as valid (MCL 700.2722). If you are no longer able to provide for your pets, a Pet Trust ensures that there are funds and a caregiver in place. With a Pet Trust, you can ensure that your pets are taken care of as you would take care of them yourself.
TERMS OF THE TRUST
A traditional pet trust allows you to provide special instructions regarding the care of your pet. Commonly included instructions include:
- Identification of your pet
- Food and diet instructions
- Grooming instructions
- Veterinary care
- Socialization of the pet
- Compensation for the caregiver and trustee
- Method the caregiver must use to document expenses
- How the trustee is to monitor the caregiver’s services
- Whether the trust will cover the cost of veterinary insurance, liability insurance in case the pet bites or injures someone, etc.
- Final disposition of the pet (burial, cremation, etc.)
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER
In Michigan, pets are considered personal property. You should choose a beneficiary to receive your pets, who will become their caregiver. You should also choose alternate beneficiaries in case your original chosen person cannot serve. Choose beneficiaries who knows your pet and enjoys being with them, and who can offer them a stable and loving home.
You should also choose a trustee of your Pet Trust. The Trustee will ensure that the beneficiary is reimbursed for your pet's expenses. Choose a Trustee who is financially responsible and can manage money.
How much money should you set aside? It depends on the number of pets you have, their ages, their medical conditions, and what kind of animal they are. A parrot, for instance, lives much longer than a cat or dog. You should also consider costs of possible illness or injury to your pets.
You can create a separate trust for your pets, or you can include your pets in a clause in your will. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and I am happy to discuss these with you.