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You Can Create a Pet Trust – Just Like the One For Choupette

Create pet trust

According to multiple news sources, when the creative director and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld died on February 19, 2019, he left his famous cat, Choupette, a significant amount of money in trust.

Pet trusts are now quite common, and specifically authorized by statute in most jurisdictions.  Many people consider pets as a part of the family, and want them to be cared for as such.  A pet trust can provide money to pay for a caregiver, food, pet supplies, and a veterinarian.  It can also provide a place for your pet to live (or board), and in the case of Choupette, a personal chef.

Most estate planning attorneys who create pet trusts will provide a check and balance on the trustee, the caregiver, and the remainder beneficiary.  In other words, we do not recommend that the person in charge of caring for the pet be the one managing the money and the ultimate remainder beneficiary when the pet dies, as this would create a perverse incentive for the caregiver to do a bad job in caring for your beloved pet.

For people who do not want to create trust, they can always leave money to a caregiver (or charitable organization) with the hope that the caregiver will maintain the pet properly.  The benefit of a trust is that it makes the arrangement more legally enforceable and provides greater oversight.

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida have statutes based upon the Uniform Trust Code.  The NJ Pet Trust Statute can be found at:  3B:31-24 Trust for care of animal.  The Pennsylvania Pet Trust Statute can be found at: 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 7738.  Trust for Care of an animal.  The Florida Pet Trust Statute can be found at: Florida Statute 736.0408  Trust for care of an animal.  The State of New York also has a statute specifically authorizing the creation of a pet trust, which can be found at NY Est Pow & Trusts L § 7-8.1 Trusts for pets.

It should be noted that the NJ statute, enacted in 2015, amended a previous version of the law that limited Pet trusts to 21 years.  It also clarified that a Pet trust could be created under a revocable trust document, not just as part of a trust created under a Will.

It should also be noted that living money to a pet (in trust or to a caregiver) will likely give rise to an inheritance tax in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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