Have you ever been concerned about what would happen to your pet if something unexpected happened to you? Ohio law now allows pet owners to create a trust to provide for the care and maintenance of pets if the owner can no longer care for them, be it due to death or other incapacitation. This type of trust is protected by statute and is legally enforceable (Ohio Revised Code Section 5804.08). Commonly known as “pet trusts,” these trusts can cover any type of pet (including tarantulas). A pet trust is a legal vessel that describes your wishes regarding the care of your pet and distributes provided funds to enable that care. A pet trust can be created during the owner’s lifetime or created at the time of the owner’s death via a will.
Some important items pet owners should consider when thinking about forming a pet trust:
1. Who will you name as the trustee? What about an alternate? The trustee is the person charged with following the directions set forth in your trust. The trustee may be paid a reasonable fee, or may serve without compensation.
2. Who will be the caretaker for your pets? The caretaker may be the same as or different from the trustee. If the caretaker and trustee are different people, the trustee could have the authority to remove the pets from one caretaker and appoint a new caretaker if the trustee is dissatisfied with their care.
3. Specific instructions you might have for the care of your pets. You may wish to specify whether or not the caretaker should be permitted to allow animals to breed, for instance, or whether they should be kept in a private residence, as opposed to a rescue facility. Typically, a pet owner will give the caretaker wide discretion to provide care in a manner that the caretaker sees fit, in his/her best judgment.
4. The amount you are willing to pay out of the trust to the caretaker for providing care for your animals.
5. The person or organization who will receive any remaining trust assets upon termination of your trust (which should be at the death of the last animal covered by the trust).
Once these items are resolved, you will need to decide what assets (monies, etc.) you are willing to use to fund the trust.
Pet trusts allow you to plan for your pet’s future and ensure that your pet will be cared for in the way you desire. Pet owners can finally create and control the answer to the troubling “what if…?” question and have peace of mind about the care of their pets.