We receive numerous requests regarding the continued care of animals after a client’s death. For many, their animals
are their family and they wish to provide for them as they would other intended beneficiaries of their estate.
Colorado legislature came to the rescue over a decade ago to provide a solution to the problem. Colorado law currently
allows for the creation of a pet trust. At C.R.S. 15-11-901 et.seq., the procedures to create a "Pet Trust" are
set forth. As part of your estate plan, you can create a trust that will care for the special animal in your life.
One of our clients established a trust for Romeo, a horse that is highly skilled in equestrian activities. As part of this
particular client’s estate plan (which uses a revocable trust) a trust will be established on the client’s death holding a
sum of money to care for Romeo. The money to be held in the trust will be used for training and boarding the horse
as well as for veterinarian expenses and other ordinary expenses of the animal. After a set number of years (during
which the horse will be trained), he is to be sold to a loving family who will care for the horse. The client’s goal is
to insure should the client die with Romeo not sufficiently trained to meet his maximum potential, he would continue
his training and eventually be cared for by a loving family.
Whether the animal is a highly trained (and expensive) animal such as Romeo, a house pet or group of pets, the
owner of those animals may wish to formalize the arrangement within their estate plan for the animal’s care. Often
clients assure us the administrator of their estate will handle the disposition of their animal just fine having been
assured the animal would be cared for by family or friends. Most often this works. To ensure it works and the pet is cared for, a more formal arrangement such as a Pet Trust may be called for.
The Pet Trust can be incorporated into your existing will or trust or can be a separate “standalone” document. It can
set forth who is to care for the pet, the amount of funds set aside for the care of the animal, the disposition of the
pet’s remains upon death, the choice of care providers for the pet, and the compensation of the custodian. Furthermore,
an incentive for the care of the pet can be provided by a "longevity" clause. In other words, a payment can be
made to the custodian for so long as the pet is alive. Upon death the payment ceases. This tends to increase the attentiveness of the caregiver toward the pet.
Furthermore, a "watchdog" (no pun intended) can also be appointed to insure the custodian is properly caring for the
pet. The sky is the limit regarding the type of trust and the type of provisions that can be contained therein.
There are many resources available to review Pet Trusts, how they work and if they would be right for you. Some of
the websites have legal forms, but be careful in using them as the forms need to be incorporated into or coordinated
with your existing estate planning documents.
Professor Gerry W. Beyer a professor at Texas Tech has a wonderful website (www.professorbeyer.com/Articles/
Animals.html) providing answers to frequently asked questions about the use of Pet Trusts. Anyone desiring to establish
a Pet Trust may want to visit his site, which also contains links to articles on the subject and state statutes.
At our office, we used to have a girl kitty named Trust. She roamed our office hallway and provided delight to clients and staff. She was well-loved by everyone, but easily quarantined for those with cat allergy problems.
If you have a special pet in your life, make sure he or she is properly provided for upon your death by incorporating
a pet trust into your estate plan.