Planning ahead for Fido and Fluffy


What would happen to your pets if you suddenly became unable to care for them or passed away? Many individuals rely on family members and friends for assurance that Fido and Fluffy will receive care.  Unfortunately, these promises may be unable to be kept for reasons such as living arrangements, health, or finances.

A pet trust, drafted by an attorney, can provide protection for your wishes and your pet. The trust could be a testamentary trust meaning that it is in your Last Will and Testament or it can be a document that is created during your life, depending upon your wishes. A pet trust can control how and when funds are disbursed for care. An investment trustee can be appointed to manage the funds and try to grow the principal, to improve the likelihood that money will be available over the lifetime of your pet.

  Who will care for the pet?  The individual or organization designated to care for the pet is called the pet guardian. The pet guardian must follow the pet owner’s instructions.  If an organization is appointed as guardian, directions about adoption of the animal should be included in the trust.  A successor pet guardian should be named in case the first guardian is unwilling or unable to provide care.  The guardian can be responsible for the care and funds, but appointing different people/organizations adds an extra layer of protection.

  How much funding is required?  Consider the number and type of pets, how long they are expected to live, compensation for the guardian, and an emergency fund since pet care becomes more expensive as pets age.  Be aware that property of this type of trust may be applied only to the care and support of an animal or animals who were living at the time of creation of the trust and who are beneficiaries of the trust. If a court determines that the value of the property exceeds the amount required for the care and support of those specific animals, then the property must be distributed out of the trust.

If you still have questions about elder law in general or a specific topic related to elder law, please visit for a listing of free seminars.  The topics covered by these weekly seminars change every month. “Jessica Greene, CELA,* LL.M. in Elder Law is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.