Pet trust funds can be practical estate planning tools

The idea of setting up a trust fund for a pet may seem extravagant to most people in Missouri. In reality, creating a trust fund for a beloved pet is not just something that eccentric billionaires do. Because pets are viewed as property in the eyes of the law, a trust fund is the only way to legally provide for their care.

Many people think that they can leave money to their pet and express their wishes for the pet’s care using a will. While family members may provide for the pet as expressed in the will, they won’t be legally obligated to do so. When arrangements for a pet’s care are not provided for in a trust, the pet could potentially end up being taken to the pound.

Pet trust funds got a bad reputation after hotel heiress Leona Helmsley famously turned her white Maltese into a millionaire. A $12 million trust was set up to care for Helmsley’s dog, while two of Helmsley’s grandchildren were left nothing from her estate. Although $12 million may be an excessive amount of money for the care of a small dog, a more modest trust for a pet can be quite practical.

Pet owners have a few different options for creating a pet trust. A traditional trust appoints a trustee caregiver and leaves specific instructions for the care of an animal. A statutory pet trust leaves a certain amount of money for a pet’s care without specific instructions. A pet owner may also have a designated pet caregiver sign a pet protection agreement that legally binds them to their pet care responsibilities. An estate planning attorney may be able to help a pet owner determine the most efficient way to provide for their pet’s care in their estate plan.

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