More than half of all Illinois households include at least one family pet. Of course, in many homes, a companion animal like a dog or cat is much more than a pet; they are a part of the family, with their own personality, temperament, and individuality. But, have you considered what will happen to your beloved animal friend in the event that you are no longer able to care for them? Through the estate planning process, you have probably begun to address your home, car, and the guardianship or care of your children. However, it is also important to plan for the ongoing care of pets. Fortunately, there is a tool known as a pet trust, that when used properly can offer you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your dog or cat will be well cared for, even if you cannot provide the care.
Why Not a Will?
According to the law, pets—even domestic animals—are considered property. However, in various applications, including divorce, courts have begun recognizing that there are some special considerations that must be made. While pets are not quite human, they are certainly different from property like furniture or artwork. For the purposes of estate planning, the Illinois legislature has created the ability for a pet owner to establish and fund a pet trust to provide for the care of companion animals after the owner’s death. As property, pets can also be included in an owner’s will, but given that a will has to go through the often time-consuming and messy process of probate, a trust allows the animal to be settled into its new home and environment much faster with less hassle.
Elements of an Illinois Pet Trust
You should, of course, work with a qualified estate planning attorney when developing the terms of your pet trust, but the law in Illinois provides some basic guidelines. When deciding how much money to set aside for the care of your pet, it is important to realize that the court may reduce the amount if it is deemed to be unreasonable. Setting aside too much could also give rise to a will contest by disgruntled would-be heirs claiming that you were not mentally competent during the estate planning process.
In addition to funding the trust, you must also bequeath your pets to the trust and designate a trustee, or someone to take responsibility for your animals. If you do not name one, or none of your named trustees will accept the role, the court will appoint a trustee to oversee your pets’ care. Finally, you should also indicate your intentions for the remainder of the funds in the trust upon the death of your pets. The trust, by law, will be terminated when there is no longer a living animal to be covered, and the remaining funds will be disbursed according to your will, intestate succession laws, or the terms of the trust itself if such terms exist.
Contact a DuPage County Estate Planning Lawyer
If you would like to learn more about how a pet trust can help you provide for the care of your dog or cat after your death, contact an experienced Lombard trusts lawyer. At A. Traub & Associates, our team is prepared to assist you with each and every element of your estate plan. Call 630-426-0196 today to schedule an introductory consultation.