For many people, their pet is like their child.  Dogs and cats are loyal companions and playmates, always ready to lend a listening ear or to go for a walk.  But what happens to your beloved pet if you die or become disabled?  Who will feed your pet?  Where will your furry friend live? 
In the vast majority of states, including Michigan and Illinois, the law allows for the creation of a “Pet Trust”.  Unlike a will, which must go through the probate process, a Pet Trust is effective immediately upon the grantor’s death or disability, meaning that the person that you have designated to care for your four legged companion will immediately have access to the funds necessary to care for your pet.  A Pet Trust gives a pet owner peace of mind by allowing him to plan ahead and know that his pet will not be neglected after his death.  The owner can designate a trustee to handle the money and a caretaker to care for the pet. 
Some things to consider when creating a pet trust:

  • Who will be the trustee?  Who will take care of the pet?  The trustee will be responsible for administering the funds in the trust.  If your best friend is great at handling money and also loves your pet, it might make sense to have her act as both trustee and caretaker.  If your best friend is great with money but never really liked your dog, you might want to name a different caretaker.
  • How much money will be needed to care for the pet?  It will obviously be more expensive to care for a pet horse than a pet fish.  To determine what the costs will be, consider such things as food costs, vet bills, and the pet’s lifespan.
  • You may also want to consider a Power of Attorney to provide for the care of your pet in the event that you are disabled or traveling.  If you are traveling and your pet is ill, for example, you might want to make sure that someone has the authority to make arrangements for the necessary veterinary care, including authorizing tests and surgery. 

If you are a typical American household with at least one pet, a Pet Trust is an essential part of your estate plan.  Take steps now to care for your pets after you are gone. 
To read the full Illinois statute concerning pet trusts, please visit http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/076000050k15.2.htm

To read the full Michigan statute concerning pet trusts, please visit
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(fy5uwojtbmntwa55jnq5efql))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-700-2722

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