Pet Trusts: Legal in Many States

I am forty years old, and my youngest cat is five. Even if she lives to a ripe old kitty age of 25, I will only be 60 years old. The average life expectancy in the U.S., at least according to a recent United Nations study, is 78.9. I don’t know about you, but I intend to live to at least 100 –and I dread the thought of spending my last twenty to forty years without a kitty companion “just in case” I don’t make it that long. However, I equally dread the thought of leaving my furry best friend alone in the event of my passing.

Fortunately, many states have made it easier than ever to plan for the care of pets left behind. All but a handful have pet laws that permit owners to pass on some of their assets for the care of their animal companions. Illinois, for example, has been allowing the creation of trusts for pets since 2005. And, according to the American Bar Association, animal law is now one of the fastest-growing legal specialties. 

Estate planning experts advise pet owners to set up a trust rather than address pet care in their will. A will must be executed, and that’s a process that can take years in probate court. Trusts, on the other hand, take effect quickly. If you do not already have an estate plan, you can set one up for as little as $500. The cost of adding a pet trust to the plan should be minimal. Future amendments or changes to the trust could cost $300 or more, depending on complexity. Because the law considers pets to be property, owners must bequeath the animal to the trust.

Have you –or would you– set up a trust for the care of your pet? I know I certainly plan to do so. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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