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Pet Trusts in New York State

May you really designate a trust for your pet? In New York State, the answer is yes! The law concerning creation of a trust for pets is codified in the Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 7-8.1. Under this law, “a trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal is valid.” The law further states that the trust will “terminate when the living animal beneficiary or beneficiaries of such trust are no longer alive.” What is the purpose of a trust for a pet? A trust may ensure that a third party cares for your pet in case you become incapacitated or after you die. The third party is someone appointed by the grantor (you), whether it be a family member or friend. Typically, money or other assets are set aside for the care of the pet for the remainder of its life.

Be wary of how much money you decide to leave in trust for your pet. Under the EPTL, it is at the Court’s discretion whether the “amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use.” In that case, the amount that the court decides exceeds what is necessary is left to your estate, requiring probate of your Will or administration of your estate. Finally, if no trustee is willing or able to care for your pet, the court will appoint a trustee to carry out the intent of your wishes. Consult with your estate planning attorney to determine whether a trust for your pet is advisable.

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