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Should I consider forming a trust for a family pet?

There are a lot of things to think about when considering estate planning. Most of us are primarily concerned with what will happen to our assets and property in the event that we should become unable to look after those interests on our own. Your pets can also be part of that equation. Many of us consider our pets as family members. Like any loved one, we want to ensure that they are cared for in our absence. A family pet trust can help you accomplish that goal.

You can form a family pet trust regardless of whether your pet is a New York show dog with an award winning pedigree or simply a stray cat that you have come to cherish after it wandered onto your property. What's important is that you first identify certain individuals to look after your pet whom you trust. These individuals are known as trustees. The person forming the family pet trust is known as the settlor. Trustees are the persons whom you will specify in a legally sanctioned agreement to look after your pet's best interests after you die or become incapacitated.

In a typical scenario, your family pet trust will hold certain property, usually cash, in reserve until such a time as you specify. Once that time arrives, then the trust will fund your trustee on a regular basis. In some states, that will continue for as long as the animal lives or a period of 21 years. Knowing the duration of your trust's enforceability can be critical with certain long-lived animals. For example, a horse or a parrot may outlive trusts formed in some states.

Fortunately, your New York estate planning attorney can assist you with forming a family pet trust that is specifically geared towards your particular needs. For example, you can specify the particulars of how your family pet should be buried or cremated after it eventually dies. Your attorney can also help defend your trust in the event that other potential heirs to your estate contest its validity.

Source: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "Pet Trust Primer," accessed May. 05, 2015

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