One of the phenomena that has accompanied the aging of we Boomers is the explosion of pet ownership in the US. Boomers were the first generation of Americans for whom pet ownership was common. Before us, farmers and other rural Americans had cats and dogs that lived outside and ate table scraps and rodents. Boomers made pets part of the family and brought them inside. And now that our nests are empty, we’re filling them with furry family members.
Last year (2015), Americans spent
more than $60 billion on pets. The
adoration of our pets has reached unprecedented levels of specialization. Of course, pet owners take their animals to
the veterinarian and possibly a groomer, but we can also take Fido to the Spa
and Daycare, we can take Fluffy to a pet psychologist, and boomers can now buy
homeopathic remedies to treat Snowball’s unique maladies. We love our animal companions so much there is
seemingly nothing we won’t do for them, and that has caused the pet care and
pet food markets to explode.
The most effective way for a pet owner to ensure continuity of care for a beloved pet in the event of the owner’s incapacity or death is to establish a pet trust. A pet trust helps ensure that, whether the client becomes incapacitated or dies, the pet will be cared for in the manner specified by the owner (who, after all, knows the pet better than anyone else).
Establishing a pet trust also has important benefits for the pet owner, including peace of mind in knowing that the pet will receive proper care throughout life, including aggressive care for health problems.
A pet owner’s incapacity should not spell the end of this important relationship, just when the owner most needs the pet’s love and companionship. It’s well known that pets can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Whether playing a game of “catch” to help a stroke patient improve muscle tone or just being a calm, familiar presence for an owner suffering from Alzheimer’s, a pet can play an important role in an incapacitated owner’s medical treatment. A pet trust can include instructions requiring the caretaker to bring the pet for visits with an incapacitated owner, in the event that the owner’s incapacity prevents the pet and owner from living together.
Mississippi trust law was amended in 2014 to specifically provide for such trusts. Mississippi Code § 91-8-408 entitled “Trust for care of animal” states:
“(a) A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one (1) animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal.
(b) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is so appointed, by a person appointed by the court. In addition, a person having a demonstrated interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.
(c) Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to its intended use, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise to the settlor’s successors in interest.”
We have drafted pet trusts in wills and living trusts for clients who wish to ensure that their beloved animals received adequate care and medical treatment without becoming a financial burden on family members. Call us today if you would like to discuss a pet trust for your pet.