Three Questions About Pet Trusts

Do you have a pet that you love like your own child? Have you ever wondered about how, if at all, you could provide for that pet’s well-being if you were to suddenly become incapacitated or killed? If the answer to one or both questions is yes, then perhaps you’d be interested in learning about pet trusts.

So what is a pet trust? For that matter, what is a trust?

Basically, a trust is a situation in which the legal title to property is held by one party, known as the trustee, for the benefit of another – the beneficiary of the trust. Traditionally, for a trust to be valid there must be an identifiable, legally-recognized beneficiary. Since animals are viewed by the law as property, traditional trusts couldn’t be used to provide for a beloved pet that outlived its owner. Along came the “pet trust,” which is not, per se, a traditional trust, but an application of what’s known as an honorary trust. This type of trust may be created for virtually any specific, designated purpose, so long as it’s not based on whimsy.

Why is it called an “honorary” trust?

It’s called an honorary trust because the person to whom the property comprising the trust is transferred, has no legal obligation to carry out the trust’s purpose; that is, he or she chooses to honor the trust’s purpose. However, if they decline to uphold the trust’s purpose, the property must be returned to the trust’s creator or the creator’s successors.

To learn how to establish a pet trust, contact a qualified estate planning attorney.