Creating a Secure Future with a Pet Trust

March 26, 2024

Pet Trusts, Like Family Trusts, Ensure Furry Friends Are Cared For. New Laws Let Owners Set Aside Funds, With A Trustee Taking Immediate Responsibility.

Creating a Secure Future with a Pet Trust in Freehold NJIn 2024, 86.9 million households in the United States own at least one pet, while 35% own more than one.   We dress them up, show them off in our family Christmas card photos, and include them in special celebrations such as weddings. The most popular pets are dogs (65.1 million), cats are in 46.5 million homes, and 11.1 million households have freshwater fish. Small animals, such as rats, chinchillas, flying squirrels, hamsters, ferrets, and rabbits, are owned in 6.7 homes, while 6.1 million are bird owners. In 2022, people spent $136.8 billion on their pets, an average of $1,533 annually. Many studies have demonstrated that having a pet can improve your mental, cognitive, and physical well-being. They influence child development, responsibility, and empathy. Interacting with a pet causes them to release oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Playing with a pet raises dopamine and serotonin levels and lowers blood pressure.

A general increase in pet ownership, increased spending on pets, and the consequences when owners don’t make provisions for their pets if they pass away or become disabled and can no longer care for them created a need for pet trusts. Like a trust you would create for your family, this trust is for your pets.

Safeguarding Your Furry Friend with a Trust

In the early 2000s, trust laws evolved to include animal trusts where you can set money aside for caring for your furry family. A trust permits you to appoint a trustee(s) to begin caring for your pet when you can no longer. The main benefit of the trust is that it is immediately legally enforceable. The courts can enforce the stipulations you have left if the trustee is not following the trust’s conditions. Unlike someone who inherits a pet and decides to take it to a shelter after the probate process is over, a trustee is responsible for the pet’s well-being. As an alternative, some people put their pets in animal retirement homes, and the money from the trust goes there.

How Pet Trusts Work in New Jersey

Since 2001, trusts in New Jersey have been created to care for pets. These trusts work similarly to those for beneficiaries. The trustee or administrator named by the grantor is responsible for distributing the funds as directed in the trust. The trustee may assign a paid handler to take care of the animals named in the trust. The pet trust funds can only be used for their care and maintenance. Once the trust ends (the pets are no longer alive), the trust will distribute any remaining funds. Sometimes, that means a distribution between the beneficiaries, to an animal-related charity, or some other cause listed in the trust.

NJ Pet Trustee and Guardian Roles

The trustee is responsible for transferring the pet to the pet guardian who has been named previously by the pet owner. The guardian will receive the funds destined for the pet’s care and administer them according to its needs. The owner should include specific pet care instructions, such as special diets or veterinary care. They can also include food brands, amount of food, feeding times, medical care, toys, and grooming. The pet guardian can receive a stipend for their service but must be cautious to ensure enough funds to care for the pet. Usually, the owner names a pet guardian, but there are some cases where the trustee must do so. The trustee can call an alternative guardian if the original pet guardian cannot care for the pet.

Durable vs. Limited Power of Attorney in the Realm of Pets

A durable power of attorney is used to manage all the principal’s affairs when they cannot do so because they are incapacitated physically, mentally, or both. It doesn’t have a set time period and ends only when the principal dies. A limited power of attorney can be used for one-time financial transactions or the sale of an asset. It’s used when the principal is ill or too busy and appoints someone to complete the transaction on their behalf. This power of attorney is limited to the scope of the actions it is assigned to complete.

Ensuring Pet Welfare While Protecting Assets in New Jersey

Planning for Your Pet's Well-Being? Our NJ Estate Lawyers Can Help with Pet TrustsThe New Jersey Legislature has changed with the times, beginning in 1990, and created a way for people to ensure their pets’ health and happiness when they can no longer care for them. However, they also protect the trust by including a provision that protects the animal from abuse or being used to divert assets from legal heirs. The court can reduce the amount destined for a pet’s care if it finds it excessive, distributing the excess to the heirs.

The Security of Pet Trusts for Owners

A pet trust is a legally enforceable instrument that allows the owner to remain with their pet even if they are disabled. The care and health of their pet are assured through the trust. The owner can control the funds destined for their pet’s care. When the owner has passed on, their pet will continue to receive the love and care they need for a healthy life.

Count on Our Estate Planning Lawyers to Assist with Drafting Your Pet Trust at the Jersey Shore

Our pets are like family, and even though we cannot legally treat them as such, we can take measures to provide for their care when we are no longer able to. A pet trust is a practical way to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being after you can no longer care for them. Our experienced attorneys at Chamlin, Uliano, & Walsh know how to create a trust that is uniquely fit to you and your family’s needs. We have helped hundreds of families provide safety and care for their pets through trusts in Middletown, Holmdel, Red Bank, Freehold, Long Branch, Howell, and elsewhere throughout Ocean and Monmouth County. We know how important your pet is to you, and we can create a plan that is aligned with your wishes.

If you would like to know more about constructing a pet trust in New Jersey, call us at (732) 440-3950 or fill out a contact form so we may schedule a consultation.

Categorised in: Estate Planning