I want to write a pet trust for my three cats, Curly, Larry and Moe.
However, I do not have anyone that I can trust to be the Caregiver.
Is there an organization that you could recommend for this position?
Kathy Seattle, Washington
Kathy, Most local Humane Societies will perform this duty for your pet.
In Seattle, the Seattle Humane Society provides this service. It is called the Seattle Humane Society Pet Guardian Program.
According to Brenda Barnette, CEO, their Pet Guardian Program,”provides animal lovers with the peace of mind and the guarantee that we will be there for their beloved companions when they are no longer able to care for them due to disability or death.”
The Pet Guardian Program is a free service for Seattle Humane Society adopters, volunteers and donors who specify in their wills or trust documents that their pet.
She also makes the following recommendations:
• Prepare written instructions including the pet's likes and dislikes and the name of the pet's regular veterinarian,
• Update the instructions every six months and keep them in a safe place,
• Make arrangements with a trusted friend, relative or designated caregiver to transport the pet to the Seattle Humane Society when the time comes.
For further information, visit their web site here.
I have found that is it difficult enough to find someone that I trust that can be a good caregiver for my three cats, Curly, Larry and Moe. It is nearly impossible to think of an alternate caregiver. Any suggestions?
Betsy Lynn Las Vegas, Nevada
Betsy, you are correct. The choice of a caregiver for your cats is like appointing a guardian for your children.
Remember, usually the caregiver will have to sign some type of agreement, contract or document prepared by the Trustee stating that they will provide the proper care for you cats, before the Trustee will even release your pets to the caregiver.
Some people allow the appointed Trustee to nominate an alternate caregiver, if it becomes necessary.
One other method, is to appoint an animal care panel of your friends or family and give them the duties and responsibilities of appointing the alternate caregiver.
No matter what method you choose, this is not an enviable task.
I often receive requests from pet owners for information on potential caretakers.
Many individuals, without specific friends or family to nominate, are sometimes hesitant to have BIG University or BIG boarding kennel as the caretakers.
Well, interestingly enough, I recently received the reverse inquiry.
That's right. I have had contact from an individual who is interested in becoming a caretaker.
Here is some basic background information.
This person lives in Tuscaloosa, AL. She is from California and her stepfather was the ex-mayor in her city where she lived. In 2006, she was a volunteer Citizen on Patrol with the Palm Springs, CA police department. The rescue work she did was in Orange County, CA and she may be able to contact the vet who was in charge of setting up the facility in Huntington Beach, as a personal reference.
She wrote to me as follows:
..."I'm happy to provide answers to any questions. I have one year of law school left and then I plan on working in AL, Atlanta, or DC. With the pets that I have I will again rent or buy a large house (apts don't like large dogs).
I'm willing to take care of the pet for its natural life, be it a dog, cat, rabbit, rat, bird. I know it can be difficult to find someone to take in a person's pets who has passed away, especially someone you can trust. I am very trustworthy and responsible and would be committed to following the owner's wishes. Of course, this would also help me get through school financially so it is a win-win situation. I've worked at a lot of wildlife rescue centers and in the last 15 years adopted two dogs (one passed away) 4 rats and a rabbit (also deceased now), and several cats. All were strays that found me. I believe that when you take in an animal you are responsible for it for life.
I can promise that I am very loving toward animals, very understanding, can communicate well with them, and always provide excellent care. From what I know I give each pet more attention per day than many people give to their own children!
If there is a request from an owner that I feel I couldn't accommodate (say 4-5 walks per day or something like that) I would be honest about that and turn down the job."
If anyone wants to speak with this individual or secure the necessary references, contact me directly.
By way of full disclosure…I do not personally know this individual and we have only had communication via email.
One of the key decisions that you need to make when you set up a trust for your pet, is who should serve as the animal caretaker and then the alternate caretaker, if the original is unable, for whatever reason, to be able to perform their duties.
The most obvious choices are a friend that is familiar with your pet or another family member.
Secondary options may include a local breeder, animal sanctuary or even your pet’s veterinarian.
Recently, a number of animal sanctuaries, also called pet retirement homes, have emerged that will provide care for an animal until its demise. These facilities vary greatly in terms of the environment they provide, the cost of placing an animal within the sanctuary and the type of compensation that they will accept. For example, some sanctuaries may accept only cash donations, while others are willing beneficiaries of a charitable remainder trust.
These animal sanctuaries or retirement center may be cost prohibitive or require a specific donation amount before they will accept your pet.
Estate planning for you and your pets is exactly that, the need to plan.
Start the New Year off right.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( ASPCA) is another invaluable site to reference estate planning needs for your pet.
Kim Bressant-Kibwe, Esq. the ASPCA Trusts & Estates Counsel offers assistance to attorneys, financial advisers and executors on all aspects of planning.
Ms. Bressant-Kibwe writes,
“…A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement that provides for the care and maintenance of one or more pets in the event of their owner’s disability or death. The person who creates the trust is commonly referred to as the ‘settlor’. The person who is entrusted with the funds is called the ‘trustee’. A trust can take effect either during a person’s lifetime or after their death. Typically, a trustee will hold property (cash, for example) “in trust” for the settlor’s pet or pets. When the time comes, the trustee will make payments on a regular basis to a designated caregiver. In some states, the trust may continue for the rest of the animal’s life or for 21 years, whichever comes first. Other states allow a pet trust to continue for the rest of the animal’s life without regard to the 21-year limitation. This is especially advantageous when planning for companion animals such as horses and parrots, who have longer life expectancies than cats and dogs.”
She suggests that you contact your attorney to discuss the needs and future estate plans for your pets to establish a pet trust.
Additional areas of concern that she notes that you, your family and your attorney need to consider include;
The appointment of the trustee and successor;
The appointment of the caretaker and successor;
The need to adequately identify your pets in order to prevent fraud;
A description of your pet’s standard of living and care in detail;
A requirement that the trustee ensures the caregiver is providing the pet with regular, thorough veterinary check-ups;
The need to determine the amount of cash or assets needed to adequately cover the expenses for your pet’s care;
The need to determine the amount of cash or assets needed to adequately cover the expenses of administering the pet trust;
Choosing a beneficiary who will receive any remaining funds that were not used by the pet trust; and
Providing directions for your pet’s burial or cremation.
The ASPCA is on one of the many valuable sources of information available to the public regarding the estate planning process for your pets.
If your advisers need assistance or direction, you can help show them the way.
Be proactive in your life. Make your choices, plan and then proceed,
We recently, visited the responsibilities of the Pet Trustee, see here and determined that their duties mirror those of other Trustees.
In addition to the restrictions imposed in the Trust Agreement , we noted that the Uniform Trust Code also sets out specific expectations for the Trustee.
What happens if the Trustee fails to adhere to the restrictions and steps outside the parameters of the power structure?
If a Trustee is believed to have breached their duties under the Trust Agreement or threatens to do so, what ability does the Court have to control the actions of the Trustee?
Under the common law there were limited remedies available for a breach of duty action again the Trustee. Only the Beneficiary and any Co-Trustee could bring the action and it was a matter for the Court to review.
The legislatures have now provided in most states, that others may represent a Beneficiary if legal action against the Trustee becomes necessary.
In the case of a Pet Trust, the Pet Caretaker would be able to bring an action of the behalf of the Pet.
Generally the Court can order the Trustee to do any number of things, including ordering the Trustee to perform the Trustee’s duties as set out in the Trust or to stop the Trustee from committing a breach of that agreement; order the Trustee to repay money or restore property to the Trust and order the trustee to account for all assets.
In some circumstances the Court can suspend the activities of the Trustee or even remove them from their duties or deny them any compensation for their work.
Many states have also written specific remedies that are available if a Trustee is in violation of their duties. Usually, these remedies are contained within the State's Trust Code and are identical or closely similar to those of the Uniform Trust Code.
The Uniform Trust Code, adopted by a majority of the states since its initial draft inception in 2000, has been the underlying strength of the new growth phase of Pet Trusts.
We have previously minimally defined the role of the Trustee.
Generally speaking, the duties and responsibilities of a Trustee for a Pet Trust are no more or less than any other Trustee.
The Trust Agreement itself will set out the specific role of the Trustee and set the parameters of the powers of the Trustee.
The Uniform Trust Code also defines in detail, the duties and powers of the Trustee that have been accumulated as established by the courts and the legislatures throughout the years.
Beginning with Section 801, DUTY TO ADMINISTER TRUST, which states…
Upon acceptance of a trusteeship, the trustee shall administer the trust in good faith, in accordance with its terms and purposes and the interests of the beneficiaries, and in accordance with this [Code].
The Code sets out in great detail the expectations of the Trustee, including definitions and explanations of the needed loyalty and impartiality of the Trustee as well as the accumulation, control and accounting of the Trust property.
Your choice of a Trustee for your Pet Trust, whether an organization or an individual should not be taken lightly. Although their responsibilities are set high and can be closely monitored by your Pet Caretaker, you will be out of the picture and the decisions will be made by someone else
You will no longer have control of the property that you have set aside for the care and protection of your pet.
Chose your Pet Trustee wisely.
I have an idea as to the person that I want to appoint as the caretaker for my older Siamese cat, Sammy. Unfortunately, Sammy has some health issues including degenerative joint diseases. What information will the caretaker need in order to provide for my pet when I cannot?
Alva Everglades City, Florida
Alva…After you have carefully chosen the caretaker for your pet, you need to begin to assembly the various pieces of information that you will need to pass along or make available to that individual.
This package needs to be kept in a location that is readily known and accessible (in a safety deposit box at a bank that needs a signature for access is a very bad idea) to your family and the especially, the caretaker.
Cats, suggest that at a minimum, you should consider the following items as information to provide to your caretaker.
• Inoculation and medical records
• Medical conditions
• Spay/neuter certificate
• Veterinarian's phone number and other information
• Special foods and feeding schedule
• Are they an inside or outside cat
• Daily schedule:
what time pet wakes up
any special activities during day
• Favorite type of petting or brushing
• How to calm a cat when frightened or aggressive
• Where the cat likes to sleep
• Do they travel well in cars
• Will they walk on a lease
• Special play activities that your cat enjoys
• Include something that has your smell on it (scarf or shirt)
• Include photographs from cat's past (this can help bonding with new owner)
This list is by no means complete and certainly you will have additional ideas of your own, based upon the interaction between you and your pet.
Hopefully, the person that you have chosen is already familiar with Sammy and his personality and is willing, if not eager to assume the necessary duties and responsibilities that are required.
One of the key decisions that you need to make when you set up a trust for your pet is who should serve as the caretaker and the alternate caretaker, if your original choice is unable, for whatever reason, to perform their duties.
The most obvious choices for a caretaker are a friend that is familiar with your pet or another family member. Secondary options may include a local breeder, an animal sanctuary , a pet retirement center or even your pet’s veterinarian. You should be aware that many animal sanctuaries or retirement centers may be cost prohibitive or require a specific donation amount before they will accept your pet.
Your pet trust will direct the Trustee to distribute monies to the caretaker on a regularly scheduled basis to provide for the payment of all of the necessary expenses for your pet. Most pet trusts also provide for a payment to the caretaker for their time and services. You can specify the normal costs required to maintain the standard of living for your pet that include housing, food, veterinary and grooming bills, insurance and cremation or burial expenses.
One of the duties of the Trustee should be the power to demand a regular inspection of your pets to ensure that they are being properly maintained by the caretaker. The Trustee should be allowed to visit the animals in their home environment with the caretaker. The inspections should also be permitted to be made randomly and without prior notice to the caretaker.
Whoever is your choice as the caretaker, it is extremely important that you discuss your expectations of their duties and functions, to ensure that that they are willing to accept this responsibility. You need to be clearly comfortable with your choice, as it may determine the future well being of your family pet.