Establishing a Trust for Your AnimalsPosted on September 11, 2009
Without fuss or fanfare, significant changes are occurring in the field
of estate planning and trust law. And they’re having a big impact not
only on your ability to provide for the animals you love, but on how
the courts view the emotional and financial bonds between humans and
For decades, trust attorneys have struggled to help animal
lovers who wanted to provide for their nonhuman companions after
they’re gone. These estate advisors typically told their clients to
transfer "ownership" of companion animals — as well as money for their
care — to someone they had complete faith in. That faith had to be
well-earned indeed, because trusts for animals were not traditionally
enforceable. If the friend or family member you chose didn’t use the
money as stipulated in the trust, there was little a judge could do
In other words, there was no guarantee that your wishes would be honored — or that the animals would be cared for.
But that’s no longer the case in a growing number of states. Working behind the scenes with experts in trust law — including the attorneys who drafted the Uniform Probate and Trust Code, the uniform laws that many states adopt as their own — ALDF has helped craft new guidelines that specifically validate enforceable trusts for nonhuman animals. These new rules have already been adopted by the District of Columbia and 41 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
Don’t see your state listed above? Then it’s time to turn up
the volume a notch — by letting your state legislators know how
important this issue is to you. To learn what you can do, click here.
If you want to take a look at the Uniform Trust Code yourself — or pass
along a copy to a financial advisor or elected official — click here.
By bringing attention to the Uniform Trust Code, we can accelerate the
trend toward adoption of trust provisions that enable us to provide for
our animal companions’ welfare after we’ve gone. In a nation that
regards companion animals as family members, it’s only natural that
people would want to include those animals in their estate planning.
And the more courts are forced to acknowledge the special bonds between
humans and nonhumans, the closer we are as a society to extending true,
lasting, legal protection to animals.
An excellent resource on estate planning for companion animals
is "All My Children Wear Fur Coats" by Peggy R. Hoyt, J.D., MBA. The
book may be ordered online at www.legacyforyourpet.com.
If you live in a state that has enacted nonhuman animal trust laws, and would like to establish a trust for your animals, contact an estate planning attorney.