For clients in Maine and Massachusetts, Red Dog Legal offers revocable living pet trusts. So what is a pet trust? A pet trust is legal instrument designed to ensure that if you die or become incapacitated, someone will step in and care for your pet and that funding will be there to support them. A pet trust is a revocable living trust that is created by a pet owner who acts as a settlor (sometimes also called a “grantor”). Generally, the owner appoints themselves as the initial trustee of the trust, an in addition, names another person who will care for the pet if the pet owner dies or becomes incapacitated.
The trustee administers the pet trust for the benefit of the pet. When the pet dies, any of the pet trust's funds that remain will be distributed to another beneficiary. The terms of the pet trust will include instructions for the care of the pet, including diet, veterinary care, socialization, grooming, and matters related to the internal administration of the pet trust and pet trust funds.
Funding the pet trust can be accomplished in a number of ways: by setting aside a specific amount upfront, which can be supplemented from estate assets upon death; opening a bank account with their pet trust as the beneficiary; by purchasing a life insurance policy with the pet trust as a beneficiary; or by some combination of the above. The amount of funding depends on a variety of factors including the species and breed, which in turn helps determine life expectancy, age at the time of the pet trust’s creation, and existing health issues. One should start by determining how much they are currently spending on the animal’s care, which will provide a baseline for future expenditures. Purchasing pet insurance, which will help offset the cost of veterinary care in the case of major health problems, may also be advisable.