Wills and Trusts: What about the Pet?

In Michigan, like most states, a pet is not considered a human and, therefore, is not an Heir or Devisee under estate planning documents such as Wills and Trusts.  However, a pet may very well be an important part of the family.  In a recent seminar (22nd Annual Drafting Estate Planning Documents-ICLE), one of the speakers indicated that 600,000 pets are euthanized a year because of the death of an owner and lack of a caregiver.  This is not necessary so long as the beloved pet is included when you prepare your estate plan.

Michigan, in fact, has a statutory provision that allows for the care of a designated domestic pet animal.  Such a Trust is valid and can help ensure pets are taken care of and not euthanized upon one’s demise.  A Pet Trust can only exist so long as there is a living animal covered by the Trust, the Trust cannot last longer than 21 years, and no portion of the principal or income of the Trust may be converted to the use of the Trustee or to a use other than that Trust purposes for the benefit of the covered animal.  There are some rules to follow upon distribution, but they are not cumbersome.

As pets become an important part of a family or an individual’s final years or, as pets themselves age, they can be a financial burden to any caregiver.  To help ensure that a pet is properly taken care of through the remainder of its life, pet lovers should consider providing for a Pet Trust to ease that burden.  The best place to do this is to include your pet in discussions with your estate planning attorney.
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