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Is it time for you to create a pet trust?

If you are like many New Yorkers, your pet is a member of the family. While you probably know exactly how to keep your companion animal happy and healthy, others may not be familiar with your pet’s needs. This is probably particularly true if your dog, cat, bird or reptile has dietary restrictions, medical conditions or simply a unique temperament.

Depending on its species, age, breed and overall health, your animal may survive you by years or even decades. Setting up a pet trust ensures your furry, feathered or scaled friend has both the care and resources it needs to thrive.

New York law

Historically, animal owners who wanted to leave instructions and funds about their pets could do so in their last wills and testaments. In 1996, though, New York began one of the earliest states to provide for the creation of pet trusts. Section 7.8.1 of the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law allows for two types of pet trusts:

  • Inter Vivos trusts, where pet owners create and fund the trust during their lifetimes
  • Temporary trusts, where the trust is part of the last will and testament

Regardless of which type of pet trust you choose, the trust provides for the care of your animal until its death. Then, the trustee dispenses with any remaining trust funds according to your instructions and state law.

Your pet’s well-being

When you create a pet trust, you name a trustee to oversee it. This fact may give you some additional peace of mind, as the trustee has a legal and fiduciary obligation to carry out your wishes. If the trustee breaches these duties, your estate may have a valid cause of action against him or her.

Estate planning is a comprehensive process that often involves disposing of assets and planning for long-term care. Ultimately, even if you are no longer alive, creating a pet trust ensures your companion animal continues to have a good life.

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