North Carolina Law Has Provisions For You To Arrange Care For Your Pets As Part Of Your Estate Planning
People love their pets. To outsiders – particularly those who do not own pets – love may sometimes seem excessive. The fact remains, though, that there is a bond between pets and their owners. One of the essential parts of that bond is the obligation of the owner to provide care for the pets, which can’t provide for themselves. The owner provides love, food, and shelter in exchange for loyalty and companionship from the pets. So what happens to your pets when you die?
Fortunately, North Carolina law has provisions that make it easy to ensure that you can continue to provide proper care for your pets even after you are gone without relying upon someone’s promise that they will take care of things. Our estate planning attorneys at Wilson Ratledge explain more below.
North Carolina Lets You Take Legal Action In Your Will To Care For Your Pets When You No Longer Are There To Do So
In 1995, the North Carolina legislature passed a statute enabling pet owners to establish a testamentary trust to care for their pets after the owner has passed away. A testamentary trust is one established in your will that provides a governing structure intended for a particular purpose and funds it with a part of your estate to pay for whatever purpose the trust is designed to serve, which in this case would be the care of your pets. Under the statute, the trust is to benefit those pets of yours that are alive at the time of the establishment of the trust. However, you can work with your estate planner to update the trust to include any pets you obtained after the initial creation of the trust. The trust terminates once the last surviving animal covered under the trust passes away.
A trust for your pet is every bit as legally enforceable as any other trust, meaning the trustee you designate has a fiduciary obligation to adequately provide for the care of the pets identified in the trust. The trustee uses the money placed into the trust to pay for that care. That care can be as described explicitly in the trust as you like. You can identify particular veterinarians to provide medical care for the pets, how often the pets should be taken to the vet, a specific brand of pet food, or even the frequency of visits to the dog park. Your pet, your trust.
You can identify someone to serve as a trustee who is required to either provide care for the pets identified in the trust or arrange for that care. In either case, the trust pays for the maintenance of the covered pets for as long as they live, after which any funds remaining in the trust are distributed as directed in the trust document. During the course of the trust, no principal placed in the trust, nor investment income earned by the trust, can be used by the trustee or for any other purpose other than the care of the designated pets that are the beneficiaries of the trust.
If you don’t designate a person to manage the trust, the clerk of the superior court with jurisdiction over the trust can do so upon the application of “a person.” Given that vagary, it is probably best to designate someone you know who will properly care for your pets. You need to ensure that the person you designate is willing to serve and will be able to do so when the time comes, or else the clerk of the superior court will appoint a different trustee.
Work Closely With Your Estate Planner On Your Pet Trust
Your pet trust can include as much specificity as you like. You need to make clear to your estate planner exactly what you want to accomplish with the trust. If you wish for a particular pet food to be given to your pets, or daily dog park visits, you better tell your estate planner. Telling the person you designate as trustee is not legally enforceable. On the other hand, it might not be wise to make serving as a trustee too burdensome. You need to talk to the person you plan to designate as a trustee to ensure that person is willing to do what the trust requires.
You also need to communicate clearly to your estate planner what pets are to be covered by the trust. In case you might outlive the pets originally covered by the trust and get more pets, be sure to have your estate planner draft the trust to include any pets you acquire later. Otherwise, those pets will not be covered.
If You Want To Establish A Pet Care Trust, Talk To The Estate Planning Attorneys of Wilson Ratledge
While many people might think it a little silly to provide for the care of your pets via a trust in your will, in reality, it is both quite responsible and can be a source of peace of mind knowing that your pets will be cared for according to your wishes when you pass away. The estate planning attorneys of Wilson Ratledge can help you with that endeavor and any other estate-planning matters. Contact us today. Our knowledge and experience regarding estate planning will help you easily navigate the process.