Pet trusts prepare care for animals after owner’s passing

People’s concern for their pets can extend beyond the grave, as some owners are setting up pet trusts for their animals.

“A pet trust basically takes care of all the needs that your pet would potentially encounter during its life expectancy,” said tax and estate attorney Jeffrey Katz, with JD Katz, in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It basically allows you to establish a sum of money for the care and maintenance of that animal to make sure that they are well kept and well-cared for,” he said.

A trust can cover veterinary bills, any type of boarding or grooming, and pet food. It also can stipulate food preferences, walking routines and anything else to maintain the pet’s standard of living and care.

A trustee is named to act as a custodian of the trust, along with a backup if the pet owner wants.

“That trustee would then have control over the animal to determine where the animal would reside, what types of conditions and care and treatment that it would receive,” Katz said.

Pet trusts are legally recognized and enforceable in all 50 states and D.C.

Citing an example, Katz said pet costs can run to $2,000 a year — $20,000 to $30,000 over a pet’s 10- to 15-year life span.

If the animal passes before the trust is fully depleted, a charitable organization could be named to receive the money.

Depending on the complexity of the trust, the cost to set it up can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Pet trusts that are part of wills don’t need to be funded when the pet owner is alive. People who don’t want to leave money for their pets also can establish a trust to specify who would be the guardian upon their death, and note intentions for the pet’s maintenance.

Letting your intentions be known for your animals doesn’t have to involve setting up a formal document.

“Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, so if something happens to you, if you’re hospitalized, please make plans and have a contingency plan for that animal,” Kat said.

May is National Pet Month.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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