Estate Planning for Your Horses and Donkeys

You Take Care of Them During Your Life…Now
Protect Your Horses and Donkeys With an “Equine Trust”

When an owner fails to take appropriate steps to provide for their horses or outdoor animals (collectively, the “horses”), the consequences upon your death can be dire. Without a will, your horses will become the property of the estate and be inherited by your heirs. The problem can be further compounded if your family members have no interest in inheriting your horses and no knowledge on how to care for them, sell them in a fair sale, or to find and place them in a safe and appropriate situation.

There are many tragic stories of owners who failed to make appropriate plans for their horses. In one case, twenty horses were seized after the unexpected death of an owner. The man’s widow was not a horse person herself. She asked for them to be taken away and they ended up being sent to auction.  Other horror stories include the situations where old horses were euthanized because no suitable foster homes could be located or horses became malnourished from improper or delayed care.

All of this is avoidable.

With proper and careful planning, along with sound legal advice, you can ensure that your horses are protected if they outlive you.

There are many considerations when setting up an effective plan for equine care

First, you have to decide who will be the caretaker for your horses (e.g., family, friends or fellow equine contacts) and whether he or she will have the desire and knowledge to properly care for your horses.

Second, you must consider how this person should take ownership of your horses. The simplest option is to make a specific bequest in your will giving your horses outright to a caretaker. You may also want to consider including a gift of cash or other property to help the caretaker with covering the cost for care of your horses.

One problem with leaving your horses to someone outright is that if that person dies shortly thereafter, then that person’s estate plan—if he or she has one—will determine what happens to your horses. You would end up in the exact situation you were hoping to avoid. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this scenario by incorporating an Equine Trust into your estate plan.

What is an Equine Trust?

An Equine Trust is a written declaration of how the owner wishes for his or her horses to be cared for after the owner’s death.  An Equine Trust ensures that your horses are cared for not only at your death, but if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. The equine trust can be inter vivos (created during the horse owner’s lifetime) or created under the owner’s will.

Just like the creation of any trust, you will need to name a trustee to carry out your wishes for your horses. When selecting the Equine Trustee, you should ideally choose a person who currently owns or has previously cared for horses in the past.

It is the job of the equine trustee to directly care for your horses in accordance with your wishes and instructions set forth in the trust or to make arrangements for such care. You can appoint one or multiple trustees. You should also appoint a successor trustee in case something happens to a trustee. With an Equine Trust, if the trustee dies or becomes incapacitated, the person you name as a back-up trustee will take over and continue to administer the trust.

When funding the Equine Trust, you should determine the cost of care for your horses and fund the trust accordingly. You can also provide a detailed set of instructions on how trust funds should be distributed for the care of your horses. Further, it is recommended that you including detailed information about your horses in an informal memo, including the horse’s conditioning, health issues, and food preferences as well as the current veterinarian who provides care.

An Equine Trust will terminate upon the death of your horse or, if you have more than one horse, the Equine Trust will terminate upon the death of the last surviving horse. At that point, the trust can terminate and distribute any remaining assets as you direct.

Estate planning can seem like an overwhelming mountain to conquer, but with the right estate planning attorney, especially one who is experienced and knowledgeable in preparing Equine Trusts, you will have someone who can help expertly navigate you through this process and relieve much of the burden.  Planning through these complex issues will assure that your horses and other animals will be protected after your death.

Our Equine Trust planning package includes the following:

  1. A meeting with the client for an initial consultation to understand your circumstances and wishes on what happens to your horses;
  2. Specific recommendations on how to incorporate your wishes into your estate plan;
  3. Preparation of your Equine Trust under your will or as a separate trust; and
  4. Help with the administration of Equine Trusts.

Contact David Frees and Douglas Kaune today at (610) 933–8069 for information regarding establishing an Equine Trust under you Will or as a separate trust.

David Frees and Douglas Kaune 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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Attorney, Speaker and Author
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