Loosening the Purse Strings: Caring for Kitty

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2002
  • Deedra Allison

For some people, their pets are their “children,” and ensuring the animals’ lifelong care is a priority. Pet trusts allow pet owners to provide for their dog, cat, fish, bird, horse, snake, or other animal, after their own death. Like other trusts, you must choose a trustee, but with a pet trust, you may name a person other than the trustee to physically care for the animals. Make sure you are clear about what kind of care and environment you want your pets to have, including the type and place of burial upon the animals’ deaths. The trust should have provisions for distributing the remaining funds after the last of your pets dies. Pet trusts, although recognized in fewer than 20 states, are becoming more popular. Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed his state’s pet trust law in April (effective January 1, 2003), which holds trustees legally accountable for executing the terms of the trust.

If your state does not have a pet trust law, you can make a provision in your will to leave a certain amount of money to a person for the care of your animal. Another option is to provide a sum of money—in a separate trust—with a trustee who pays expenses such as veterinary bills and food. For example, this trustee could choose people to oversee care for your horses and stables. “What you want to do is say that this property should be kept in trust until the horse dies,” says William H. Forsyth Jr., managing director and senior fiduciary counsel at Bessemer Trust. “Before, it wasn’t legal in many jurisdictions because the life of the trust couldn’t be measured in an animal’s life.”

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