Pet owners in Virginia can rest assured that their faithful companions will be taken care of when they can no longer provide that care themselves. Virginia has joined thirty-seven other states which have enacted laws which allow the establishment of pet trusts. The trust can provide for the care of your pet should you become disabled or die.
There are several players in a pet trust. The first is the pet's caretaker. The second is a trustee who ensures that the money in the trust is spent on the pet. The third is a "trust protector" who enforces the terms of the trust. As with all planning documents, several back-up persons should be named for each position, in the event anyone is unable or unwilling to serve. It is also imperative to check with the named players, to ensure that they are ready and able to participate.
There are two ways in which a pet trust can be created: through a living trust which you establish while you are alive or through a testamentary trust which is established after you die under your Last Will and Testament. The advantage to using a living trust is that it can be funded upon signing, ensuring that, in the event of the pet owner's death or disability, there are funds on hand to provide for their pet's care. Because a testamentary trust will only become effective once the Will has been probated with the local court after the pet owner's death, your pet may not be provided for in the event of your disability. If you are setting up a testamentary pet trust, you should be sure to authorize your agent in your power of attorney to be able to spend money on your pet.
When considering the type and size of assets to transfer to the trust, think about the type of animal, the animal's life expectancy, the standard of living you wish to provide for the animal, the need for potentially expensive medical treatment, and whether the trustee is to be paid for his or her services. However, keeping all that in mind, do not transfer an unreasonable amount of money to the trust because it is likely to encourage a legal contest by your heirs, leaving the decision about how much money goes into the trust up to a judge. In the event there is money left over after your pet's passing, you should consider naming a "remainder beneficiary", such as a charitable organization that cares for animals, to receive any assets that are left over.