Our pets are our family. They provide us with companionship, affection, comfort, and countless hours of entertainment. If you have pets, you realize how essential they are to your life. It comes as no surprise then that many pet owners want to ensure their pets are cared for should they be unable to do so themselves.

What is a Pet Trust?

A Pet Trust is a tool used by estate planning attorneys to ensure that your pets or other animals are cared for if you are unable to care for them yourself. Rather than simply hoping your pet is cared for properly, you can ensure your pet lives a happy life and is cared for in a manner of your choosing by using a pet trust. Pet Trusts are specifically authorized under Michigan law. They are generally set up by an estate planning attorney in conjunction with a last will and testament or living trust as part of your estate plan.

Why use a Pet Trust

In the past, it was common practice for those with pets to simply give their pet to a family member and hope the pet was cared for appropriately. On occasion, some would even provide a specific amount of cash or other assets to help with the care of the pet. The trouble with this model is there is no way to control how the pet will be cared for. You are simply hoping your pet’s caregiver follows through with your wishes. To resolve this issue, lawyers have developed the pet trust.

How Does a Pet Trust Work?

What Types of Animals are covered?

Under Michigan law, Pet Trusts may be used to provide care for domestic animals or pet animals. This includes dogs, cats, birds, horses, and more.

Choose a Trustee & Caregiver.

A Pet Trust is relatively simple. First you select a trustee. The trustee is the person who will manage the funds in the trust for the benefit of your pet. Next, you select a caregiver. This is the person who will provide the day-to-day care for your pet. Including, food, shelter, medication and more. Often times the trustee and caregiver are the same person, but they can be different persons.

Pet Care & Healthcare Requirements.

Within the Pet Trust you provide your trustee and caregiver with a list of instructions as to how they should care for your pet. You can outline your pet’s nutritional and boarding requirements, exercise needs, veterinarian visits and more. You can even direct what is to be done with your pet when he or she passes.

Provide Money to the Trust.

You will need to give the trust a reasonable amount of funds to ensure your trustee and caregiver have the means necessary to provide for your pet as directed. Enough money should be set aside to pay for food, shelter, medicine, veterinarians, caregiver compensation and other service providers. Be certain to provide the trust with enough money to cover all of your pet’s needs for its lifetime.  Be careful, the court may reduce the amount of the property transferred to the Trust if it determines that that amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the care of the animal.

What if there is Money Left in the Pet Trust?

Under Michigan law, the pet trust will remain in existence until all of your pets pass. You can provide a contingent beneficiary for any money left over. For example, you can direct that all reaming funds go to a child, family member, or a charity of your choosing.

Pet Trust Attorney

Would you like to learn more about using a pet trust to care for your pets? If so, our attorney can help. Gives us a call to learn more!

Our law office is located in Plymouth, Michigan. We provide estate planning services to all of Plymouth, Canton, Northville, Novi, Livonia, Commerce, Farmington and Farmington Hills. We offer exceptional legal services in the areas of wills, trusts, special needs trusts, probate, living trusts, revocable trusts, charitable trusts, medical power of attorney, durable power of attorney, and more!

About the Author: Aaron R. Shahan is an attorney at Atlas Law, PLC. Aaron dedicates his practice to virtually all aspects of estate planning, elder law and probate.

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