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Popularity of pet trusts growing

If you ever wanted a great trivia question to break out at cocktail parties, just ask what Gail Posner, Alexander McQueen, and Leona Helmsley all had in common. After getting past the quizzical looks you’ll probably receive, you can reveal that all of them (who were wealthy individuals) all created trusts for their pets. After they passed away, the trio left an average of $13 million for the care of their dogs.

Like many aspects of estate planning, creating pet trusts is not exclusively left to the wealthiest of Americans. In fact, more pet owners of meager means are leaving money to care for their pets. The American Pet Products Association reports that 12 percent of dog and cat owners made provisions in their wills for this purpose in 2016.

While the exact reasons for this are not known, they could be attributable to more people knowing about how pets are treated under South Carolina law. Essentially, pets are considered property (even though they are part of the family in many households). Because of this, the family dog or cat cannot own property, and cannot have money left to them. Therefore, pet trusts are created.

Like any other trust, a pet trust has a person designated (a trustee) to manage the money left for the pet and to ensure that it is spent in furtherance of the pet’s best interests. This may include appointing a person to care for the pet.

So the next time you wonder how your dog or cat will be provided for if something happens to you, think about creating a pet trust. An experienced estate planning attorney can advise you.

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