Pet Estate Planning Has Come a Long Way
Sep 25 2016

Pet Estate Planning Has Come a Long Way


Pet Estate Planning Has Come a Long Way

Animal law has come a long way since Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, in 2007. Before Joan Rivers passed away, she had legally protected and taken care of her beloved dogs. Just recently, Oprah Winfrey's love for her pet dogs prompted her to leave over $30 million dollars for the care of her animals in case something happens to her.

Pet estate planning is being recommended to more and more pet owners by many attorneys, including their estate planning and animal law attorneys. It's true there are attorneys that concentrate their practice in animal law and in creating pet trusts. A qualified attorney can provide the guidance, counseling and drafting expertise to create a pet trust that is legal in most states. The field of animal law may be one of the fastest growing and most noble areas of the law. Because it gives a voice to beloved pets who otherwise might be helpless on their own.

If you need to protect yourself and your human family, call your estate planning attorney for an appointment. If you want to protect your pets today easily and affordably, you can simply go online to MyPetWill.com. Where you can register your pet's Online Pet Profile, answer some basic questions and PetWill creates your pet trust document instantly and lets you download it immediately. Your pet's future will be protected for a grand total of $15.95. If you have more than one pet, you can add additional pets easily to your PetWill for $9.95 each. There are no monthly or annual fees of any kind. You read that correctly. You get everything included for the price of a toy or bag of food.

Another reason to get a PetWill is only you know the most important details about your pet's medical history, medications, allergies, diet, care instructions and needs. Are you ready for some cold, hard legal facts? A promise from a friend or family member to take care of your pet is not enforceable! You can’t leave money for your pet in your last will either. Empty promises and ineffective legal solutions put your pets at risk. Because as you know the law considers your pets nothing but property and they have little to no rights, unless you protect them with a PetWill today.

A PetWill pet trust is a legally binding statutory pet trust.  It names up to three trustees to manage the trust assets (if you've left any), up to 3 pet guardians to provide for the day to day care of your pets and PetWill describes all of the legal protections necessary to ensure that your wishes for your pets will be documented.

PetWill was conceived for the sole purpose of caring for your pet’s welfare if the unexpected happens. It's like having a one-stop estate planning and animal law attorney that can help you document your pet care wishes in a PetWill pet trust.

Statutory Pet Trusts and Durable Power Of Attorney For Your Pet

Statutory pet trusts are there to ensure your pets get taken care of in the event of an emergency, if you become incapacitated or if you pass away while your pets are still alive. And if you think this can't happen to you, statistics prove that around 500,000 loved pets who had homes are killed or abandoned every single year because something happened to their owners without a written plan for the pets. Accidents and emergencies can happen to anyone, anywhere of any age. Since pet trusts are now legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, there has never been a better time to get a PetWill. These statutory pet trust laws are intended to provide pet parents with a legal method to ensure that all their pets can be cared for should something happen.

Statutory pet trusts were created by each of the individual states because a traditional pet trust that names a human as the primary beneficiary may not provide your pets with enough protection. A traditional pet trust relies on the goodness of the person you’ve named, not the protections afforded under the laws of statutory pet trusts.

All trusts have common characteristics. There is a trustor, grantor, settler or trustmaker who creates the trust. Then there’s the trustee empowered with the responsibility for the day to day activities of the trust.  Then there’s the beneficiary, the person or pet the trust was created to benefit.  The trust instrument itself outlines all the desires and wishes of the Trustmaker for the beneficiary.  The trustee is obligated as a fiduciary to carry out the terms of the trust and to ensure the wishes of the trustmaker are followed.  Often, the trustee is managing the trust assets – cash, investments, real property, personal property, etc – and is governed by the Prudent Man Rule to make sure he or she isn’t taking too much risk In a pet trust, all of the activities of the trustee are for the benefit of the pet beneficiaries.  The trustee doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a bank, trust company or charitable organization with trust powers who will see to the best interests of your precious pet. Trustees have a legal duty to do everything necessary to see that your pet is properly cared for according to your specific instructions. The trustee disburses funds or property to the pet guardian for your beloved pet’s expenses. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up or successor trustee in case something happens to the first one.

Pet trusts have a unique feature. In addition to the trustmaker, the trustee and the beneficiary (the pet), there is also a pet guardian, the person or organization who will provide the day-to-day care for your pet. Unless you have a significant amount of personal trust in your trustee, your pet guardian should likely be a different person. Like trustees, it’s important to have a named successor in case something happens to the first one. PetWill lets you name three trustees and three pet guardians. You can even name different pet guardians for each pet should you have more than one pet listed on your PetWill.

Ultimately, your pet is the beneficiary of a pet trust. However, once the purpose of the trust is complete and your pets have passed, any money or assets left in the trust can be distributed to a final beneficiary. It is recommended that funds remaining in the trust be left to a  pet charity, animal rescue organization or local animal shelter.

Most pet trusts can last for the lifetime of your pet. However, some states have adopted maximum terms for pets that could be problematic if you have a pet that could live a really long time, like a bird or a tortoise. As a result, it’s important to know the rules in your state when planning for long-lived pets. We recommend you consult with a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction.

In addition to a pet trust, many people will also want a durable power of attorney that includes powers for the care of your pet.  Powers of attorney can be confusing.  They aren’t trusts yet they appoint a fiduciary, like a trustee, but called an agent or attorney in fact to act on behalf of the creator of the power of attorney, called the principal. The agent is empowered by the language of the instrument to step into the shoes of the principal. A durable power of attorney is appropriate for estate planning purposes because it remains in full force and effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. 

Non-durable powers of attorney are used for specific or short term purposes, like the purchase of a new car where the dealership is going to purchase your tags and apply for your title. You might also consider a non-durable power of attorney if you were wanted a pet sitter to be able to make decisions for your pets while you were gone on vacation, but not at any other time. 

A PetWill pet trust is known to have some of the best features of a statutory pet trust and a durable power of attorney all in one legal document. During your lifetime, you will be the trustee and make all of the decisions regarding the trust, its assets and the pet beneficiaries. In the event you become incapacitated or cannot act as trustee, a successor trustee is named to act on your behalf. If you die, your trustee will continue to carry on your wishes on behalf of your pet. Your PetWill pet trust and the companion Online Pet Profile provide your trustee and pet guardian with all the information they need to make sure your pets are protected.

PetWill is a fresh, new, revolutionary product offering that takes the hassle out of safeguarding your pet’s future. When you use MyPetWill.com the pet estate planning process is simplified and made affordable for just about any pet owner and all of their pets.