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The Dish On Pet Trusts in Pennsylvania

Most people who have a pet treat them as a part of their family. Others go so far as to provide for them in their estate planning documents. But what happens if you don’t have a will but have a trust instead? Why probate your estate just for your dog’s sake? In this article I’ll give you the dish on pet trusts in Pennsylvania.

In 2006, Pennsylvania became the 32nd state to adopt a pet trust law. The law provides that a trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the owner’s lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal or if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the owner’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal.

Mark Twain said “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s”

In Pittsburgh, we love our sports teams. We also love our pets. We take them for walks. Play with them in the yards. Maybe even dress them up in a Steelers jersey on Sundays. For us animal lovers, our dogs, cats, and parrots are more than just animals. They are part of our families. To us, it makes complete sense why Oprah Winfrey is reported to have set up a $30 million trust for her beloved dogs. We understand why Betty White has set aside $5 million for her pets. In 2007, we read about Leona Helmsley leaving her $12 million estate to her dog and smiled, knowing that if we could, we would.

Thankfully, providing for the care and love of our pets doesn’t take millions. But without planning, what happens to your pet if you die and don’t set up plans for your pets care? Or what happens if you get placed in a nursing home? Who will take care of him then?

In Pennsylvania, you can’t just leave money to a pet in your will because your dog is seen as property, and under the law leaving money to your pet is the same as leaving your diamonds to your house. It doesn’t make sense. But even so, 12% of the population tries to leave money to their pets via a will rather than a pet trust.
So what is a pet trust? It’s a legal agreement where you set aside money and directions for the care of your pets. Let’s take me for example – I have 3 dogs and in the trust, Duke, Lola, and Jasmine will be given to a trustee, along with some money of my choosing with instructions for their care. This trustee has the duty to arrange for the proper care according to my instructions.

But does it have to set up before you die? The answer is no. We can draft it through your will so that when you die the trust will then be created and funded. But you can also create one during your lifetime, which will go into effect as soon as you become unable to care for your pets.

If, after thinking about it, you’ve come to realize that having a pet trust for your companion is important and that you cannot bear thought of Hero going to a shelter. What, you might ask, do you put into your pet trust? There are three main aspects of the pet trust you will need to think about – funds, instructions, and caretaker. Give me a call at 724-203-0163 and we can schedule a free consultation to discuss your wishes and to make sure that your pets are taken care of if something happens to you.