Establishing a Trust for Your Animals
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 nonhumans generally. 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 client’s 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 about it.
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 — the Animal Legal Defense Fund 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.
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 non-humans, 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.
A Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) bill, S.2868/A.4533, which would allow law students and volunteer lawyers to advocate for animal victims in cruelty criminal cases, unanimously passed the New Jersey Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and endorsed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.February 19, 2021 Press Release
Breeding operation, Adorable Stars, sells parasite-ridden kittens suffering from severe and fatal ailmentsFebruary 2, 2021 Press Release
Animal protection advocate and actress Kim Basinger sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster with an urgent request the company end all animal posts on its platform.January 25, 2021 Press Release