When you’re developing your estate plan and determining how you will provide for your loved ones after you’re gone, don’t forget your four-legged family members. Even if you have adult children or others in your life whom you trust will take them in, that doesn’t always work out.
Animal shelters are filled with animals turned in by people who took them in and later discovered they were allergic to them, the veterinary bills were more than they could handle or they had behavior issues after losing their person. Establishing a pet trust will help ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Colorado has written pet trusts into law
Colorado is one of the few states with a law that addresses pet trusts. With a pet trust, you can designate that a certain amount of money will be set aside solely to be used for your pet(s). You’ll want to include enough for veterinary bills, food and licensing for the rest of their natural lives. If you calculate your annual pet expenses, you can determine how much to set aside in the trust (either while you’re alive or after you’ve passed away).
Just as important as providing enough money to care for your pets is choosing the right people to handle that care. You need to choose a trustee to manage that trust who may or may not be the person you choose to care for your pet. Be sure to select one or more alternates.
Under Colorado law, “no portion of the principal or income may be converted to the use of the trustee, other than reasonable trustee fees and expenses of administration, or to any use other than for the trust’s purposes or for the benefit of a covered animal or animals.” You can and should include language that requires trustees to find a suitable home if they can’t care for your pets.
A pet trust doesn’t have to be established for a particular animal. You can designate that it applies to any pets licensed to you or for whom you’re caring (unless you’re fostering them for a rescue group) at the time of your death.
These are just a few highlights of how a pet trust can protect your companion animal(s) when you’re no longer around to take care of them. With experienced legal guidance, you can develop a pet trust that addresses all of your concerns about your pets.