Why You Should Plan for Your Pets and
Why Pet Trusts Are Not Just for the Wealthy

If you are contemplating having an estate plan prepared or already have one, and you have pets, then it’s extremely important to consider what will happen to your pets if they should outlive you. Many pet owners overlook end-of-life planning. Just as young parents will have to consider who will take care of their children, pet owners should undertake the same considerations when preparing their estate plans.

Retirees and the elderly often have pets to provide companionship and a structured daily routine; however, a visit to the local SPCA or animal shelters will reveal the sad consequences for those who fail to plan for their pet’s wellbeing. These shelters are often filled with pets who suddenly find themselves without a home in a strange and scary place. The pets left behind after their owners’ death are often the hardest to adopt and thus face a bleak and uncertain future.

Those who love their pets will never want such a fate to befall on their loved ones, but there are ways to ensure that your pets don’t end up in a shelter after your death or while you’re incapacitated. Pets can be legally protected during an owner’s lifetime with a Durable Power of Attorney and trust, or by a will after the owner’s death.

Pennsylvania courts have confirmed that pets are considered personal property even though many owners consider their pets to be a member of the family. Thus, in a will, a person can gift his or her pet to a person that can provide a safe and loving home for your pets for the rest of its life. You can even gift money to the caretaker so that he or she has the financial resources to care for your pets. However, in many cases, a pet trust is superior to an outright gift.

Pennsylvania enacted the Pet Trust Law under section 7738 of the Pennsylvania Probate, Estate & Fiduciaries Code. That statute provides that a trust may be created for the care of any animals alive at the death of the owner. Any pet trusts created for an animal terminates upon that animal’s death and the remaining funds are distributed as the trust creator elects. The trust is enforced by the trustee, who is permitted to distribute funds and make payments on behalf of the pet. The Pet Trust will specify who is to provide care for the pet and what standard of care should be provided to said pet.

It’s important to be aware that recent guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue states that any funds that go into a pet trust will be subject to the 15% inheritance tax rate.

Even if you decide not to do a pet trust, it’s still a good idea to leave behind an informal memorandum detailing your wishes and identifying your pets’ medical conditions, food restrictions and other important information vital to their care. You should also have a conversation with your loved ones to determine what’s best for your pets in the event it outlives you.

We all love our pets and many of us treat them like family. That’s why it’s so important to take your pets into consideration when determining what happens to them after your death.

Interested in planning for your pets or in creating a pet trust? Contact David Frees, Douglas Kaune, or Andrew Friedlander today at (610) 933–8069 for information regarding your estate planning and how you can ensure that you protect your pets in the event they survive you.

Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees represent thousands of clients in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County and Lancaster County and many clients from communities such as, Wayne, Berwyn, Devon, Paoli, Exton, Phoenixville, West Chester, Malvern, Chester Springs, Ardmore, Villanova, Rosemont, Newtown Square, Gladwyne, and surrounding areas.


David M. Frees, III
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