Our pets are part of the family. They make up such a fulfilling part of our lives and are great companions for both young and old. Unfortunately, however, when embarking on the estate planning process, many families neglect to consider what would happen to their pets in an emergency or after their passing. It is always a good time to consider the type of care you would want for your pet in your absence—specifically, who you want to take ownership of and provide for them. This can be allocated in a will or, specifically, a pet trust, which is legally enforceable in Kentucky.
What Is a Pet Trust, and Do You Need One?
Like any other revocable trust-like mechanism, a pet trust is designed specifically with a pet's needs in mind, with the settlor (the drafter of the trust) designating the terms and operating provisions for when the trust will go into effect. The settlor chooses the trustee and the substitute trustee (the person who will manage the trust), and they can also choose a custodian whose specific duty is to care for pets in the settlor's absence or death. A pet trust is a great idea for anyone with four-legged companions and is especially crucial if you have a pet with special needs or advanced care requirements. Without a pet trust, during probate (if the estate requires probate administration), the presiding judge will award ownership of the pet to an interested party (usually a loved one of the deceased). However, despite their best intentions, this individual might not be familiar with how to care for your pet. Drafting a pet trust gives you complete control over how your pets are fed, walked, and exercised, as well as where they receive medical treatment and other issues requiring guidance.
Isn't Pet Insurance the Same Thing?
While pet insurance helps dog and cat lovers avoid large veterinarian bills, it has no bearing over the ownership of a pet when their original owner passes away. Pet insurance will usually not cover expenses for a pet with a prior medical condition (such as heart disease or epilepsy). Many plans cover only a portion of expenses incurred with the veterinarian and the cost of prescriptions but will not cover boarding, grooming, or training fees and do not dictate a plan of care in the owner's absence. There is no life insurance policy available for an owner to purchase that would cover a pet's needs after the owner's death. While Kentucky and many other states do not recognize pet custody because pets are still considered tangible personal property, it does recognize the validity of a pet trust. KRS 386B.4-080. This is the next best option for pet owners who want to provide for their pets' welfare after they are gone.
Contact Our Trust and Estate Attorneys at Darpel Elder Law
If you recently added a new four-legged family member to your home or are working on estate planning documents and want to provide for your pets, our attorneys at Darpel Elder Law can assist. We specialize in estate and legacy planning for families at all stages of life and serve clients throughout northern Kentucky. Call us today to discuss your estate planning needs.