Houston Pet Trust Attorney

Houston Pet Trust Attorney

The Alarming Truth:
More Than Two Million Pet Animals are Euthanized Every Year
Don’t Let That Happen to Your Cherished Companion

Pet Trusts

 Have you given careful thought to what will become of your faithful companion – your beloved pet – once you are gone or should you become incapacitated?  Your cherished pet provides you with companionship and unconditional love.  Ensuring your pet’s care after your death or incapacity is the responsible and loving thing to do.  If you haven’t planned for your pet in the event of your death or disability, your pet may face a grim future.  

A primary goal of estate planning is to provide for your loved ones, and for many of us, our “loved ones” include our pets. Although you can always ask a relative or friend to care for your pet, they aren’t legally obligated to do so unless you establish a specific estate plan for this type of care.

The specific type of estate planning method you choose will be contingent on your pet’s needs, your state laws, your goals and financial resources.  You and your estate planning attorney can create a plan to ensure your pet will continue to have a good quality life in a loving home.

Be sure to ask your estate planning attorney for more details about the following frequently asked questions:

Can my estate plan provide for my pet?

Absolutely.  However, while you may consider your pet as a companion and even part of the family, legally, your pet is considered ‘personal property’ – and is not given the legal status of a person.  Therefore, since you cannot leave one type of property to another type of property in your Will, (i.e. you cannot leave a watch directly to a couch), you cannot leave money directly to a dog.  But, you can provide for your dog in your Will or living trust by creating a certain type of trust for your dog’s benefit.

Is my will the best place to plan for the care of my pet? 

While it may seem ‘easy’ to include a bequest for your pet within your will, it may not be the soundest or safest approach. Your will must go through the court system of probate before it takes effect.  This can be a rather time consuming and uncertain process, and your pet cannot wait for that process – your pet will need immediate attention.  Unlike your spouse, adult children or other family members, your pet cannot take care of themselves until the probate process is complete.  

Since your pet needs food, water, shelter, and love every day, simply leaving a bequest in your Will may not be the best way to provide for your pet.  During probate, your pet’s ownership and care may be in jeopardy.  So, while you may want to include certain provisions in your Will for your pet, there are other methods for you to consider.  Many people are now using a ‘pet trust’ to provide funds and instructions for the care of their pet in the future.

What is a pet trust, how does it work and how does it provide for the care of my pet?

A pet trust is a legal technique used to ensure that your pet receives proper care after your death or incapacity.  You and your attorney will outline the specific details as to when and under what circumstances the trust will take effect. These details include how and when the trust will be funded, who will be the Trustee, successor trustee, Beneficiary/caretaker, and how the Trustee or caretaker will manage your pet’s care and the funds for your pet.

You want your pet to be loved, fed, cared for, and receive medical attention as needed. You may also want to designate funds to purchase pet insurance, or even to enforce the provisions of the trust.  In your trust, you can even leave real property for housing your beloved companion.

It works like this - simply stated, you, as Settlor (pet owner) give your pet and a certain amount of money or property to a Trustee (trusted person or bank/other entity) who arranges for your pet’s care according to your instructions in the trust document.  The Trustee then delivers your pet to the designated Beneficiary (the pet’s caregiver) and uses the assets in the trust for the pet’s care and expenses.  The Trustee will pay for the pet’s care pursuant to your instructions in the trust document as long as the Beneficiary takes proper care of your pet.

How does a trust help me provide for my pet?

A trust becomes effective immediately upon the terms outlined in your trust agreement – usually death or disability; unlike a Will which must go through the probate process before it is effective. Your trust agreement can outline the specific details about the care and control of your pet, as well as the process of making funds available for your pet’s care. Your trust can also provide specific directions about the daily care, medical attention and even end of life instructions for your pet.

Two examples of trusts that can provide care for your pet include the following:

  • Statutory Pet Trust – Some states have enacted statutes that authorize the creation of an enforceable pet trust. This typically means that the trust can designate a third party who will have the power to enforce the terms of the trust – to compel the caretaker or trustee to use the trust funds for your pet. Some issues that arise with these trusts include whether the amount of funds in the trust are ‘reasonable’ according to court standards, and who the designated third party to enforce the trust would be. 
  • Traditional Pet Trust – One of the best methods to ensure the care of your beloved pet is to set up a traditional legal pet trust as discussed previously in this article.  You are the Settlor (the pet owner and creator of the trust). Your pet and the funds/assets are the body of the trust; the Trust Corpus.  Your named caretaker of your pet is the Beneficiary of the trust and your named Trustee is the party responsible for managing the funds and the caretaker.

How much should I leave in trust for the care of my pet?

You and your attorney will work together to evaluate the different factors that will assist you in making this decision.  You need to consider the type and age of your pet, the historical expenses you have incurred for your pet, the amount of care that will likely be involved for the pet’s anticipated lifespan, as well as your finances,. Of course, providing for the care of some pets will be much more expensive than for others.  For example, the money needed to care for a young horse will probably be much more than what is needed to care for an elderly dog or cat.

Contact Schnurr Law Firm for Pet Trusts in Houston, Texas

We can help you plan for the care of your pets who outlive you by using sound legal strategies and techniques, including the use of a traditional Pet Trust.  Contact our office and schedule an appointment to see if a Pet Trust is right for you. 

Schnurr Law Firm, PLLC serves clients throughout the greater Houston area, including, but not limited to Houston, Bellaire, West University, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Richmond, Rosenberg, Katy, Cypress, The Woodlands, Kingwood, League City, Webster, Clear Lake, Pearland, Angleton, and throughout Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County and Galveston County.

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| Phone: 713-662-2889

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