PET TRUSTS: DOES YOUR ESTATE PLAN PROVIDE FOR YOUR PETS?

Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys

Pets are special to their owners. Pets also occupy a special position under Illinois law. From a legal perspective, pets are at times considered personal property. However, this personal property is protected. It is illegal to beat, cruelly treat, torment, starve, overwork or otherwise abuse an animal. It is also illegal for the owner of an animal to fail to provide it with sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary care.

If you have any pets, you might consider the following questions:

  • Upon your death, what is to become of your pet?
  • Should your executor or trustee dispose of your pet?
  • Should your executor or trustee give your pet to a family member, friend, or specific shelter?
  • Should your family member, friend, or a shelter receive some money for the care of the pet?
  • Does your executor or trustee know your wishes concerning your pet?
  • Does your estate plan provide for this?
  • Are your wishes mandatory or discretionary?

If you are concerned about providing for your pet in your estate plan, some of your options are:

  • Directing that your pet be euthanized by a qualified veterinarian in a professional and dignified manner;
  • Bequeathing your pet to a person with a certain sum of money to be used for the care of your pet;
  • Leaving it up to your executor or trustee to arrange for a suitable home and to prepay for the projected care and food costs of your pet; and
  • Authorizing your trustee to pay for the care of your pet on a periodic basis.

As of January 1, 2005, you have an additional option.

You may now establish a trust for the benefit of your pet. On March 19, 2004, the Illinois Trust and Trustees Act was amended to allow a pet to be the beneficiary of a trust. This amendment corrected the perceived problem in the law that did not allow a pet to be the beneficiary of a trust. Previously, a trust was susceptible to successful challenges by others if the trust was established for the benefit of a pet. The animals covered by the new law include dogs, cats, horses, birds, fish, reptiles and other animals that are commonly considered pets.

If you think you would like to establish a pet trust, please phone our office at 630-653-1577 or contact us online. We would be happy to have the opportunity to assist you with formalizing a plan for the care of your pet(s) should anything happen to you.

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