Elder Law Estate Planning Basics – What About Pets?

When planning our estate, most of us do so with the intent of making sure our family and close friends are taken care of after we pass away and for some of us, that can include our companion animals many consider to be as close as family. Fortunately, New York trust and estate laws allows taking care of our pets to be more than an afterthought and gives individuals the opportunity to proactively plan for the even that we may not be around to take care of the animals we love so much.


In New York, the legal mechanism that allows pet owners to posthumously care for their companion animals can be found in the Uniform Probate Code § 2-907. Honorary Trusts; Trusts for Pets. New York is one of over 20-states that allow these special kinds of trusts to allow for the care of pets and other domesticated animals. Depending on the type of animals to be cared for, these arrangements may be as simple as bequeathing animals in a will and leaving a small amount of money or as complex as placing an entire farm into a trust and allowing beneficiaries to name caretakers.


Honorary trusts can be created for a whole host of situations with the basic goal being to have money put away to ensure maintenance of some property. This can include keeping headstones at cemeteries in good condition, preserving artwork, and providing for food and medical care of pets. It is not necessary to have a beneficiary named but it is also important to note that these types of trust can only last for 21-years, which may complicate care for long-lived animals.


Trusts for pets on the other hand terminate when there are no longer any living animals covered by the trust. One important tip for creating a trust is to have language that states the trust covers all animals owned by the creator, rather than naming individual pets by name. These trusts will need a caretaker named to oversee the trust and comply with the wishes of the listor.


As with other trusts, alternate caretakers should be named in case the primary caretaker becomes incapacitated or can otherwise no longer care for the animal. Farm animals like horses may also need a designated sanctuary and allow the caretaker the power to find an alternate should new accomodations be necessary for some unforeseen reason.


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