Knoxville, TN

Charleston Pet Trust Attorneys

South Carolina Pet Trust Basics

A pet trust operates just like any other trust. There is a trust creator who sets up the rules that govern the trust and funds the trust; a trustee, who carries out the trust creator’s wishes; and a trust beneficiary, which in this case is the trust creator’s pet or pets. However, few trusts are this simple. Things tend to get complicated when you start to actually make plans for the care of your furry, feathered, and scaly friends. 

For example, should the person you choose to care for your pet or pets also have full control of the money you put in the trust to pay for pet-related expenses? Not all animal-lovers are good with finances, and not all financial whizzes think spending money on pets is worthwhile. If the roles of animal caretaker and asset protector are split up, you must ensure that the people you pick for those rolls will get along, and that they have a similar understanding of the lifestyle you want your pets to have. 

Building In Some Controls

As a trust creator, you will be able to set guidelines that dictate what sort of lifestyle you would like your pet to live after you are gone. If you want your dog taken to the park to play every afternoon, you can say so. If you want your lizard to be kept alive for as long as possible, so long as there is enough money in the trust to cover its treatments, you can say so. Be aware, however, that every guideline you set is something that a trust protector can step in and sue over. Defending against such suits costs money, which would come out of the trust, and courts are loathe to enforce guidelines they find unreasonable, which makes many such suits a waste of time and money. It is, therefore, a good idea to keep the instructions included in the trust as simple and straightforward as possible.

It is also important to make plans for what will happen to any money that is left if in the trust after your pets pass on. Many trust creators would like to give it to the person who served as pet caretaker, but you have to consider that some caretakers might do something unsavory in order to get their hands on that cash. To prevent this from happening, our firm often draft trusts that compensate the pet caretaker at regular intervals, then gives whatever is left in the trust at the pet’s death to an animal shelter. But you have to be careful about this as well because you don’t want a pet caretaker that keeps a suffering animal alive just so they can keep getting paid. 

These challenges are what makes finding a pet caretaker as difficult as finding a guardian for your children. Nobody is going to do as good of a job raising your babies as you would yourself, but delaying your decision because the person you are thinking about picking is not perfect does not make things any better. 

Tax Considerations

Depending on how much money you want to leave to your pets, it may be necessary to fund the trust while you are still alive rather than at the time of your death so the trust is not hit with an estate tax bill. Creating a trust while you are alive does not mean giving up control of your pets. You can serve as trust-creator, trustee, and pet caretaker until you are no longer able to do so. 

No matter when the trust is created, it must pay income taxes on the income it generates from investments, interest, or whatever other way it happens to make money. If you create the trust while you are still alive, you can pay these taxes on the trust’s behalf, otherwise, the trust will be responsible for paying its own taxes.

Next Steps 

If you would like to add a pet trust to your estate plan, we encourage you to make an appointment with us. Before you come in, we ask that you to take a look at the following questions and think about how you might like to answer them. 

  • What sort of pets do you currently have? Do you plan on getting more pets in the future?
  • How long does your vet expect your current pets to live if they are properly cared for? 
  • Would you expect the person who cares for your pets to spend their own money to care for your pets? Or will you provide money they can use to care for your pets?
  • Do you plan on compensating the person who will care for your pets?
  • Do you have someone in mind that you think would make a good pet caretaker? 
  • Do you have a backup person if the first person is unable to serve? 
  • Is someone you know good with money and willing to serve as the trustee? Or is that a position you will have to hire someone to fill? 
  • When your pet dies, who do you think should get the remaining assets?

At your appointment, we’ll go over your answers to these questions and use them to outline the details of your pet trust. Contact Wiles Law Firm today to schedule a pet trust consultation.

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507 South Gay Street, Suite 1230, Knoxville, TN 37902
| Phone: 865-633-0331

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