Many people worry about what will happen to their pet if they should die before their pet does. In Alabama, Ala. Code Section 19-3B-408 provides a means for a person to ensure their pet is cared for after they are gone by establishing a trust to provide for the pet’s care and maintenance. If you have pets and want to make sure they will receive proper care if you should die before them, call today to set up an appointment to find out what you can do.
The following topics should be considered by every person who wishes to establish such a trust for their pets.
The most important thing to consider is who do you want to actually care for your pet? You should discuss this with each person you are thinking of nominating as the caregiver for the pet and make sure they understand the implications. You should also have one or more alternates to care for the pet should your chosen person become unwilling or unable to care for the pet.
In order for a trust to be valid, it must have some type of funding. While it is important that you provide enough funds to care for your pets through their life, it is also important that you specify what type of care is to be provided. Ala. Code Section 19-3B-408 states
“Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to its intended use, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise to the settlor’s successors in interest.”
This means that if you leave too much money to the trust, the excess funds as determined by the Court could be given to your heirs. To avoid this, be sure your trust document enumerates the level of care you want your pet(s) to receive. If you want them to be groomed every week at the local doggy spa, your trust should state so.
The trustee is the person who makes sure the money in your trust is being spent on the things for which it was intended and is responsible for investing the money to make sure it lasts long enough to fulfill its intended purposes. Many people will feel ok about naming their caregiver as the trustee, but this could leave no one to make sure your pet’s caregiver is taking steps to ensure the money in the trust will last long enough to care for your pet or protect any excess funds for the remainder beneficiaries. If you are unsure as to who you would like to be your trustee, call me to set up an appointment to explore your options.
Pets are considered to be personal property in the State of Alabama. As such, they must be devised by a will, given as a gift, or pass through the laws of intestate succession as defined by Ala. Code Section 43-8-40. You have already considered who you want to care for the pet but, if you leave your pet to someone in a will, that person’s estate plan could determine who gets ownership of the pet if they die before your pet.
If you are considering making a trust for your pet or pets, chances are you have experienced the sadness of losing a pet. If you want your trust to provide for any pets you may acquire in the future, you should inform your attorney so they can draft a document that will cover any pets you may own at the time of your death.
In Alabama, a Pet Trust will end when the last animal to be provided for by the trust dies. If there is any money left in the trust when your pet finally joins you in the afterlife, it will need to be distributed. You may want any left-over funds to go to a charity in your pet’s name or you may want the excess to be distributed among your heirs or descendants. I can help you prepare a document that will follow your wishes.
Call me today to set up an appointment to discuss your pet’s care.