Pet Trusts


Beyond planning for just your wealth, and your loved ones, many people are not forgetting the other members of the family, their pets. Proper estate planning can ensure that your pets will continue to receive the same special care that you provide when you are unable.

How to Provide for your Pets

You can provide for your pet in a will or a trust.  We prefer Pet Trusts over wills as wills do not address the needs of pets during a disability.  Furthermore, a will must be probated before it takes effect and this process can be time consuming.  While the will is in probate there are no legal measures to ensure that your pet receives the proper care it needs.  A trust is preferred because it becomes effective immediately and can handle and care for your pets during a disability as well as after death. 

Michigan law recognizes pet trusts as valid (MCL 700.2722).  The law allows the Trust to provide special instructions for your pet and the care of your pet including but not limited to, food and diet instructions, grooming, vet care, socialization, compensation for a caregiver and the trustee.  The Trust can also cover vet insurance, liability insurance, and the final disposal of pet.

General Requirements for a Pet Trust

  1. Must be for a domestic or pet animal

  2. Terminates when the pet is no longer living or 21 years after its creation

  3. None of the pet trust’s principal and income can be used for anything other than for the benefit of the covered animal(s) unless otherwise stated in the trust

  4. When pet dies the remaining funds or property is transferred according to the terms of the trust

  5. A court may reduce the amount of the property transferred if it determines that the amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use

  6. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or remove a person appointed

What to consider when creating a Pet Trust

  1. Adequately identify your pets, such as a microchip number

  2. Detail your pet’s standard care

  3. Require regular inspection of pets by the trustee or monitoring with veterinarian

  4. Determine the amount of property (money) to adequately cover the expenses for the pets care and specify how funds should be distributed to the caregiver

  5. Provide a trustee and successor trustee

  6. Designate the remainder beneficiary in the event that the funds in the pet trust are not exhausted

  7. Provide for the final disposition of your pet

Final Points to Remember

  1. 1.  Only protected pets are ones designated in the trust, be sure to amend the Pet Trust when the pets you want protected change

  2. 2.  Designate an individual to enforce the trust and name at least one alternate

  3. 3. Create a dedicated pet trust. Do not rely upon the general word of others that they will care for your pet, as circumstances may change.  Without creating a pet trust, and naming each of your pets as beneficiaries in that trust, your pets will not be cared for if you become disabled and at your death they are regarded as property and may not be cared for as you would wish.

If you'd like more information about pet trusts, please call me at (586) 254-9200 or (248) 409-0256.

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