THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF A PET TRUST
This week I have been writing about pet trusts. As I discussed in my earlier posts, there are other ways to provide for the care of your pets if they outlive you, but a pet trust is probably the most comprehensive planning method for that situation.
How do you set up a trust for your pet? The Arizona statutes don’t give a lot of detail, but they do provide enough guidance that a competent estate planning lawyer should be able to put together a pet trust without too much difficulty.
I should remind my readers at this point that the Arizona statutes on this subject, contained in the Arizona probate code and the Arizona trust code, are based on uniform code provisions. This means that many other states have similar laws. As with any estate planning situation, of course, the planning must be done in compliance with the specific provisions of law in your state.
The statute in the Arizona probate code starts with this statement: “A trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal is valid.” It was necessary to say that because without it, a pet trust would not be valid. Without that statement, you couldn’t make an animal the beneficiary of a trust.
The probate code provision doesn’t expressly say how you can establish a pet trust, but a pet trust can apparently be established either in a will or in a separate document that meets the requirements for establishing a trust.
The trust must be for the care of one or more animals that are alive during the lifetime of the person establishing the trust. The trust terminates when the last animal provided for in the trust dies.
The trust should identify who is to be the trustee, although the court can appoint a trustee if one isn’t named. The statues are explicit that the trust assets must be used only for the purposes of the trust,
The court may reduce the amount of property transferred to the pet trust if it determines that the amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Any trust assets left at the termination of the trust, or any excess if the court reduces the amount of the trust, will be distributed according to the provisions of the trust instrument. If the trust instrument doesn’t say what happens to assets left at termination, the assets go to the residuary beneficiaries of the transferor’s will, or in the absence of residuary beneficiaries, to the transferor’s heirs.
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