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Guest Feature: Man’s (and Woman’s) Best Friend

By Jennifer Jackson Bell *

Whoever said “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” obviously never owned a pet. Many people, myself included, think of their pets as their fur-babies or fur-children and dote on them as such. There is no doubt that pets hold a special place in our hearts but they also hold a special place in our wallets as well. Owning and caring for a pet takes love, and time, as well as financial responsibility. After we are no longer capable of caring for our beloved fur-children we want to make sure they are taken care of, as we would our human children. However there is one major problem we face: pets are seen as property in the eyes of the state, especially when dealing with wills and probate. This means that you cannot leave money or any type of property to your pet after your death. The only way to ensure that your fur-child is doted on and spoiled as much as he/she was when you cared for him/her is to create a Pet Trust.

What Exactly is a Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals (or fur-children) in the event of a grantor’s (owner’s) disability or death. A pet trust is created like every other form of trust, with a Grantor (the owner), Grantee and Trustee (the pet). Typically, you will appoint someone you trust first and foremost and whom you would want to love and care for your pet after your incapability as Trustee. The trustee will hold property (cash, for example) “in trust” for the benefit of your pet(s). The trust will continue for the life of the pet or until the death of the last living pet included in the trust.

Why Should I Have One?

Trusts are legally enforceable arrangements. A Pet Trust ensures that your wishes for your fur-children will be carried out, and any and all directions regarding your fur-children will be followed. A trust can be very specific.  For example, if your cat only likes a particular brand of food or your dog looks forward to daily romps in the park, this can be specified in a trust agreement. If you want your pet to visit the veterinarian four times a year, this can also be included. Since as pet owners, we know the particular habits of our companion animals better than anyone else, we can describe the kind of care our fur-children should have and list the person(s) who would be willing to provide that care.

Establishing a Pet Trust gives owners peace of mind. By establishing a Pet Trust an owner can ensure their beloved animals will be given the care and resources they are accustomed to even when the owner is no longer capable of doing so herself. Without a pet trust, sometimes animals end up at the local shelter or even on the streets. Without a solid plan to care for your pets you may be risking their lives or their care.

* Ms. Bell is a third-year law student at the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. She is originally from Eastern North Carolina and intends to practice law in the area of wills and estates upon completion of her third year in law school and the State Bar exam in North Carolina. © 2017. 

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