Pets are like members of the family: they celebrate holidays with us, they comfort us when we’re sad and they depend on you – just like most relatives. It makes sense that more people are incorporating their pets into their estate planning.

When we plan our estates, we think about the will, retirement funds, power of attorney, we don’t tend to think about setting up support for our furry friends after we pass on. You can now set up a trust for your pet and assure their comfort into the future.

The basics of a pet trust

A pet trust is a legally sanctioned agreement providing for the care and maintenance of your pet in case of a disability or death. You, as a grantor, create a trust and hold property “in trust” for the benefit of your animal. Typically, people will set assign money or a bank account dedicated to the pet itself.

Some states have a 21 year maximum while others, like Tennessee, allow you extend the time through the pet’s life. It’s supposed to help with animals with longer life expectancy – such as parrots or horses. If the pet dies and there is still money left, you can designate it to family, charities or wherever you see fit.

You also assign a caretaker for your pet after passing. This person will have custody of your pet and be responsible for day to day care. It’s always best to ask the person before listing them as caretaker because they may not want the responsibility that comes with your pet. You should also list an alternate in case your original caretaker cannot take the animal.

The trust lists any special instructions for care for the pet; owners can specify everything from favorite food to toys to its sleeping arrangements. It might be a great way to help the pet transition into their new home after you pass away.

A trust can actually be very helpful for your pet because it’s a legal-binding document. With a will, it could be argued or debated against what you wanted. A trust will be admissible in probate court and express your strict wishes for the future of your furry friend.

Setting up a pet trust is similar to any other estate planning; you should consult with a legal expert and family before making any large decisions.