Pets or companion animals don’t have very many rights under the law. In the eyes of the courts, they are mostly just possessions with a financial value. If you don’t take steps now to protect your beloved pets or companion animals in the event of your death, your animals could wind up in a shelter or even euthanized by the very people you assumed would provide for them.

Creating a trust as part of your estate plan can be a relatively straightforward way to ensure that your companion animals receive proper support and care after you die and to maintain control over assets designated for the care of animals after those companion animals eventually die as well.

How does a trust for the care of a pet work?

As with other trusts used for estate planning purposes, a pet or companion animal trust involves the creation of a document and the transfer of certain assets to fund the trust itself. The pet and the person who assumes care for the animal will become the beneficiaries of the trust, while you can name a third party to serve as trustee and ensure that your animal gets the care and support it deserves.

In the case of long-lived pets, like tortoises or parrots, you may need to provide for multiple generations of ownership and support. For animals that have shorter lifespans, like cats and dogs, you will likely want to name secondary beneficiaries who can receive the assets used to fund the trust after your animals die of natural causes. Planning now will ensure that your loved ones don’t prioritize their own financial gain or convenience over the life of the animal that you love.