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Establishing a Pet Trust in Pennsylvania

How a Pittsburgh Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help

The considerations that need to be made in the preparation of a trust are abundant, and none can afford to be overlooked. Therefore, it is imperative to work with a legal professional during the estate planning process, thus ensuring that your trust will be created thoroughly, effectively, and most importantly, with care. If you are a pet owner, the fate of your pet should also be established at this time. Accordingly, we encourage you to work with a Pittsburgh estate planning attorney from our firm for the help you will need in doing so.

The legal arrangement that is made in regard to how a pet will be cared for after its owner dies is officially referred to as a pet trust. Within its stipulations, a pet trust will address how the trustee of an estate will be responsible for holding property, i.e. cash, to be used for the benefit of a grantor's pet when the grantor passes away or becomes disabled. The cash to be held "in trust" by the trustee will be paid in designated amounts on a regular basis, thus allowing for a substantial fund to exist at the time the grantor passes away.

About the State's Pet Trust Law

Pennsylvania officially became the 32nd state to adopt a pet trust law in 2006, at which time the right to establish a trust that provides for the care of an animal was initiated. Created at some point during the grantor's lifetime, Pennsylvania pet trusts will systematically terminate at the time that the animal passes away. In order to ensure that the pet is cared for in the way intended by the grantor, pet trusts are most effective when they include the following information which can be made available to the guardian / caretaker of the animal:

  • Information about the personality of your pet, i.e. their behaviors around other people and animals
  • Information about your pet's habits, i.e. brand of food, sleeping patterns, exercise routines, etc.
  • Information about your pet's medical history, including the veterinarian who treats your pet

There is no specific amount of money that can or cannot be left to a pet in the conditions set forth in a grantor's pet trust; however, it is important to consider the feasibility of leaving any amount of money when creating this type of trust. If the monetary amount left in a pet trust seems reasonable, it could be prone to contest by friends and family involved in the trust's execution. Additionally, it there are several animals that require care it could be difficult to find a way for all of the pets to remain together. As such, appropriate accommodations should be made beforehand.

Types of Pet Trusts

By law, the legal terminology used to identify the beneficiary of a trust in the traditional legal sense automatically disallows for a pet to be made a beneficiary. One of the primary requirements when establishing a trust calls for the beneficiary's ability to enforce the terms that were made within the trust. This, of course, rules out the possibility of making a pet a beneficiary. Accordingly, other structural forms of a trust will need to be established, some which are as follows:

Honorary Trust
Honorary trusts are established with a very specific purpose in mind, but without naming an actual beneficiary that will be associated with this purpose. An honorary trust might be applicable for a pet trust because it allows for a specific purpose, which in this case would most likely be to provide for the pet. What an honorary trust does not account for, however, is that it cannot be enforced unless a statute has specifically authorized it as a pet trust.

Statutory Trust
Statutory trusts are those which have been established on a statutory basis, thus allowing for enforceability. Under the jurisdictions of a statutory pet trust, a third party can be designated to enforce the terms of the trust, and in essence, advise the caretaker or trustee of your pet to utilize the trust funds that were established on behalf of the animal. Potentially problematic with statutory trusts, however, is their propensity to ignite doubt about the "reasonableness" of its stipulations.

Traditional Legal Trust
Traditional legal trusts are argued by some to be the most effective and trustworthy way to establish care for a pet after the owner has passed away. With a traditional trust, an attorney can specify the conditions that you wish to address in formal language. Included in the body of the trust can be the conditions of your trust and the funds that have been allocated to the animal. It is also within the traditional trust that a trustee and / or caretaker will be named.

Why work with the Frayer Law Offices?

In the planning of your trust, you won't want to work with anyone other than an experienced, qualified, and established estate planning lawyer. The same is true as you work toward establishing the way in which your pet will be cared for when you are no longer able – or no longer around – to do so yourself. For this reason, we highly encourage you to contact our office. The supportive care, practiced advice, and professional guidance that you will need as you create a pet trust can be delivered without hesitation by an attorney at our office. Don't wait to contact us today for more information.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.