Pets bring so much to our lives. They serve as constant companions and can be a source of joy for the entire family. In many cases, our pets are not only pets–they are part of our family. Naturally, pet owners feel concern for their pets and want to ensure that they are provided for if the owner can no longer care for them or dies. Fortunately, Michigan residents planning for their estate have tools which will also help them plan for their pet.
In Michigan, a pet owner has the option of creating a Pet Trust. These trusts last for 21 years and require that there be “no definite or definitely ascertainable beneficiary designated” meaning that there are no beneficiaries in the pet owners will or any that can be identified. There is not a limit on the amount that can go into the trust, but the court has the option of reducing the amount in the trust if it determines the amount is excessive for the care of the pet. An example would be a ten million dollar trust being set up for a beloved pet dog. That is a situation where the court might intercede and reduce the amount of the trust.
The pet owner can create two different types of pet trusts: (1) a trust which will begin if they are incapacitated and therefore unable to care for the pet; (2) a trust which goes into effect if the pet owner dies. It is also possible to create both kinds of trust.
When creating the trust, the pet owner needs to think about who they want to care for their pet and who else they would want if their designated caregiver is not able to fulfill that role. For instance, a pet owner may create a trust which identifies a specific friend to care for their pet years before the trust starts but when the trust begins that friend is no longer able to do so. The pet owner may then decide to include a general provision which directs the pet to go to a loving home or, if one cannot be found, a shelter which does not euthanize the animals in its care. Pet trusts can include specific information such as what food the pet is to have and how often they are to be walked. The trust may also include provisions related to veterinary care. There is also the matter of the amount of funds the pet owner wants to include with the trust. There will need to be a specific direction as to how those funds are to be spent caring for the pet and what will happen to the funds when the pet dies.
If the pet owner wants to use their will to designate care for their pet, they can also include provisions concerning their care such as who the pet will go to and how much of their estate will be for the pet’s care.
Creating a trust or will provision to provide for the care of your beloved pet is a wise and compassionate thing to do. As with any estate document, there are many aspects to consider about the future and important provisions to include in the estate plan itself. To make sure your pet is provided for in the future, it is essential to have sound advice from an experienced attorney. Our office has experience with these matters and can assist you in preparing for the future of your cherished pet.