Just about everybody recognizes the identity of man’s (and woman’s) best friend. While dogs are treasured companions, other types of pets hold equal importance. If you’re the owner of a furry friend, there’s a huge chance you are worried. What will happen to your pet after you die?
Meanwhile, dogs and cats aren’t the only animals that make it into the hearts of human beings. If you’ve raised a parrot from the early stages, you surely know there’s a chance you’ll be outlived. After all, a few years ago, Winston Churchill’s favored bird was still alive and talking at age 114.
Why would someone set up a pet trust?
The idea of explicitly planning for your pet after you’re gone might seem strange to some. However, if you’re a pet owner, you may have experienced more of a relationship with your fur baby than your human family. In fact, it is most likely the reason you were drawn to this article.
Setting up a pet trust ensures that your furry friend who has supported you through thick and thin—the dog you’ve taken on walks every day, the cat who sleeps on your lap every night—will continue to receive support and care after you’re gone.
So, what can you do? It might come as a surprise, but Tennessee law actually allows pet owners to leave instructions regarding the care of their beloved animals as part of an estate plan. With a trust for your pet, you can ensure long-term care, legal protection, and seamless continuity of care if you pass on or become incapacitated.
Tennessee Law and Pet Trusts
Tennessee is actually one of 46 states that have laws in place that are designed to give pet owners some assurances that their animals will be cared for after they’re gone. Tennessee’s statute on pet trusts became law in 2004 and is found at Tenn. Code Ann. §35-15-408. This portion of the code was most recently updated in 2007.
What are the benefits of a Tennessee pet trust?
Tennessee pet trusts provide more than your peace of mind, knowing your loyal pet will be cared for in your absence.
With a pet trust, you can ensure your pet receives the proper attention, veterinary care, and a suitable living environment. Since it is as legally binding as any other trust, you can use it to provide a clear framework for your pet’s care, designate trustees responsible for funds, or even appoint a caretaker.
In your pet’s trust, you can provide specific care instructions, including dietary needs, medical treatments, or exercise routines. You can prevent your pet from ending up in a shelter or euthanized after you pass away or are incapacitated.
Pet trusts can even set aside funds specifically allocated to your pet’s ongoing care, including veterinary expenses, grooming, food, and other necessary costs. This financial provision is particularly important if the pets have long life expectancies or if they have specific health conditions that may require ongoing medical attention.
Understanding the Limits of Pet Trusts
There are some critical things to understand concerning the creation of a pet trust. For one, it is only valid for ninety years. In most cases, that certainly sounds like more than enough time. One would imagine that it’s a rare instance where a more extended time period is necessary.
What if you are concerned about the well-being of more than one fur baby? No worries. You are still entitled to set up a single pet trust to care for not just one but all of your beloved animal friends. When there is only one pet, the trust terminates when that furry friend dies. With multiple pets, it ends when the last animal passes away.
Keep in mind that Tennessee pet trusts don’t necessarily just come into effect when you die. They are also useful tools in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to take care of your dear furry companion.
How to Set Up Pet Trusts
An experienced estate planning attorney can assist you in setting up the pet trust. Meanwhile, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First and foremost, who do you want to take care of your pets if you become ill or pass away? As much as you might consider one of your friends or relatives reliable, you should think twice about making a request that they assume care of your purring feline. It could be that allergies will prevent them from taking on this vital task.
Frankly asking someone to take over pet care should be viewed with the same standards as appointing a guardian for your minor children. Obviously, your relationship with your animals may strongly parallel.
Next, there’s the issue of money. You will want to ensure you are not creating an undue financial burden. Think about allocating funds for vet bills and food expenses.
How do you allocate money to a pet trust?
Since pets are considered property, you can’t leave them money in your will as you would to your human beneficiaries. However, with pet trusts, you can set aside money for their care. When you meet with an estate planning professional to write a trust for your pet’s care, you can establish a fund to care for your pet in addition to naming a specific trustee to act as your pet’s guardian. Your trustee is legally obligated to use the funds provided for your pet’s care.
When deciding how much money to allocate to your pet trust, speak with your estate planner and your veterinarian about your pet’s potential needs and ensure you leave behind a reasonable amount to care for them. Too little, and your pet’s needs may end up unmet when the money runs out. Too much, and your family members may be able to challenge your trust in court for being ‘excessive.’
Handling Tennessee Pet Trusts with MHPS
In the end, setting up a pet trust is the best way to ensure that your pet’s well-being won’t be left in question or left up to chance if you pass on or become incapacitated. Your furry friends have spent years putting your mind at ease through their constant companionship. They’ve been there for you when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re healthy, when you’re sick; and with a pet trust, you can be there for them long after you’re gone.
Put your mind at ease with this very critical part of your estate plan. With MHPS on your side, you can plan your estate to ensure that you can continue to care for both your human family and your fur babies. Schedule a consultation with our estate lawyers today.