An Arizona Pet Trust, Because Pets Are Family Too

Pet owners often form strong, familial bonds with their furry—or even not so furry–friends. You may wish to ensure that your pet is cared for, protected, and loved, just like any human member of the family, should you no longer be able to care for them due to medical incapacitation, illness, or death. Setting up an Arizona pet trust is one way to ensure the continued loving care of the animal that has brought so much joy and comfort to your family over the years. 

A trust is a legal entity that holds property and assets for its beneficiaries. In this case, the beneficiary is your pet or pets. Like other life and estate planning tools, pet trusts must adhere to legal requirements to be valid. Here’s what you need to know about setting up pet trusts in Arizona.

Continued Care for Your Pets through an Arizona Pet Trust

Your pets may feel like family to you, but the State of Arizona—like most states—considers pets property. That’s why Arizona estate planning for pet owners sometimes includes the creation of a pet trust.

Without a trust in place, your beloved pets could wind up in the care of whoever is willing to take them, or even in a shelter. Though more than half of all animal shelters in the US are no-kill, without a trust set up, you have less control over where your pet ends up if something happens and you are unable to care for them. 

When crafting an estate plan, many people don’t include their pets because they assume a family member will step up and help. However, the daily care needs of a pet, along with the expenses of pet ownership, may be more than your loved ones can manage. If you feel this is too much to leave to chance, Chandler pet trust lawyer Bernard Strass can help you establish a trust that sets forth guidelines and provides funding for your pets’ continued care.

Using Trusts in Arizona Estate Planning for Pet Owners

Under the Arizona Revised Statutes § 14-2907, a pet trust is considered valid under state law. As long as your pet or pets are still living, the funds in the trust must be used to care for them as you have designated in the trust documents.  

A will also can be used to designate who will care for your pets after your death, and you can leave money or other assets to that person to cover the costs of care. However, a pet trust provides additional benefits and legal protections that a will does not. For example, a will can only take effect after your death; if you become incapacitated, this option will not provide the care your pet needs.

The details included in your pet trust will dictate the care your pet receives, and the instructions can be very specific. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney will work with you to ensure the trust is valid, comprehensive, and properly funded.

Considerations When Creating an Arizona Pet Trust

The trustee named in your trust documents will handle the administration of the trust and distribute the funds to the named caregiver. The trustee and caregiver can be the same person or different people, depending on your circumstances and preferences as well as those of the other parties involved. You can also name a successor trustee and caregiver in case the person initially named becomes unable to serve in the role.

It is important to name and identify all animals that are included in the trust to ensure all of your pets receive proper care and that care is funded by the trust. Determining how much to invest in the trust is another important consideration. If you leave too little, the funds may run out while your pets are still living. If you leave too much, it can open the door for legal challenges by family members who have more interest in the money than they do in your pet.

Your pet trust can include any specific instructions for the daily care of your pet, including preferred food, activities, and even favorite toys. You should also state your wishes related to medical care and end-of-life treatment. For example, under what circumstances should the caregiver consider euthanasia and when should lifesaving care be rendered or withheld?

You may also wish to designate the method of disposition of your pet’s remains after its death if you have specific requests related to burial, cremation, or other options. Because the trust will be terminated after the last pet’s death, you should also leave instructions for how you want any remaining funds to be distributed upon the trust’s termination.

Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your Arizona Pet Trust

Establishing a valid, comprehensive Arizona pet trust can ensure that your pets receive the same level of love and care they had when you were still with them. Chandler pet trust lawyer Bernard Strass helps clients in the greater Phoenix area and throughout Arizona work through the details and create legally valid trusts that provide for your pet’s future. Contact Bernard at Desert Rose Estate and Elder Law to discuss Arizona estate planning for pet owners by calling (602) 644-1406 or completing this online contact form.