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What Happens To My Pets When I Pass Away

03.24.15 written by

In addition to providing for your relatives in your estate planning documents, you may also want to provide for the care of your pets upon your passing. If you do not make specific provisions for the care of your pets in your estate planning documents, your executor will have control of this situation and be required to make various decisions concerning your pets without any guidance from you. This can be a difficult situation for the executor. 

For those of you who want to make sure that appropriate measures are taken to provide for the care of your pets, and wish to provide the financial assets for someone to provide that care, you can either provide for specific instructions in your will or for those of you who may be interested, a pet trust may be the estate planning document for you. In Section 5804.08 of the Ohio Revised Code, the State of Ohio has provided direction for those of you who want to create a trust to provide for the care of your pets after your death. 

The trust should be a revocable living trust which you can amend during your lifetime as your wishes change regarding the care of your pets. You will be the trustee during your lifetime. Upon your passing, the successor trustee who you have named in the trust agreement will become the trustee. You will also need to provide a mechanism for assets to pass into the trust after your death. You can either fund the trust during your lifetime or through a non-probate transfer or through a bequest from your will. The trust will terminate upon the death of your last pet covered by the trust.

The specific terms of the trust can be as detailed or as general as you wish to provide in the agreement. The terms of the trust can provide that the trustee is to provide the finances for either the trustee or another person named in the trust to provide care for the pet. You can be very specific with regards to the types of items which the trust funds will pay for including, but not limited to, the specific foods to provide for the pet, the specific activities that the pet may engage in, and the specific home and healthcare treatment to provide for the pet as well.

The trust agreement may also be a great place to assist the executor with the care of your pet by providing for the following specific information: the pet’s eating, sleeping, and exercising habits, the pet’s personality as far as its ability to be around other animals or children or adults, and any specific information pertaining to the pet’s veterinarian and medical history. 

The terms of the trust will then also describe what happens to the remaining funds in the trust upon the death of the pet, or what happens if the trust fund assets become depleted before the death of the pet. Usually, provisions are provided so that the trustee can make sure that the pet will be given to a suitable home if the trust funds run out before the pet’s passing.

Please make sure to plan appropriately for the care of your pet after your death.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., LPA
158 North Broadway
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663
Phone: 330-364-3472
Fax: 330-602-3187