Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Including Your Pet in Your Arkansas Estate Plan

How can I provide for my pet’s care after my death?     

Pets are a part of the family for millions of Americans across the country.  Over 44 percent of all families nationwide have a dog and 35 percent have a cat, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  For many pet owners, ensuring their pet is cared for after their death is a major concern.  Despite our feelings for our pets, pets are considered property in the eyes of the law.  This makes it challenging to legally provide for your pet’s care in your Arkansas estate plan.  

Creating a Pet Trust

Arkansas enacted its first pet trust law in 2005.  The law authorizes Arkansas pet owners to place funds in a trust for the benefit of their pets.  Funds are to be used by a named caregiver.  To create a valid trust, the following conditions must be met:

  • The animals must be alive during the settlor’s (or trust creator’s) lifetime;
  • The trust will terminate on the death of the animal, or death of the last surviving animal if set up for multiple pets;
  • The settlor can appoint a trustee to enforce the trust or one will be selected by the court;
  • Property of the trust can only be used for the care of the pet, unless the amount in the trust exceeds the amount required for the pet’s care;
  • Unused funds can be returned to the settlor or the settlor’s successors, or alternatively donated if the trust is properly executed to perform this function.

Some pet owners may view a pet trust as unnecessary because they instead plan to ask a friend or family member to take in the pet after their death.  While that arrangement will work fine for some pets, animal rescue organizations can attest to the fact that many pets end up being turned over to shelters after their owners die.  A pet trust offers the only legally enforceable way to name a pet caregiver and provide funds to be used exclusively for your pet.

 


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