Not every state has laws addressing pet trusts. Fortunately, North Carolina pet trust laws allow residents to establish clear plans for the care of their companion animals.
Pet trusts can be created for any type of animal: Dogs, cats, birds, horses, reptiles, or other exotic species. Individuals include pets in their estate plan to have the peace of mind that their pet will have the care that it needs in the event the pet owner dies or becomes incapacitated. Pet trust planning tools are formal arrangements created by estate planning attorneys that provide money and instructions for the designated pets’ care. Under the North Carolina General Statutes addressing pet trusts:
No portion of the principal or income may be converted to the use of the trustee or to any use other than for the benefit of the designated animal or animals.
Some individuals believe that simply setting aside money for pet care and outlining their wishes in their Will is enough. However, pets are considered property in North Carolina, which means there is no legal way for a pet to inherit money. Money intended for pet care needs to be funded into a trust and managed by a trustee who ensures that distributions satisfy the pet trust’s terms. Another caveat with relying on a Will is that it may go through North Carolina probate. This is a time-consuming process, during which time pet care could be compromised.
In addition to funding the trust to cover expected care costs, it’s critical for the pet owner to appoint an individual capable of administering necessary pet care. The person chosen as the trustee does not have to be the caregiver. The responsibilities of each can be reviewed with a lawyer so that the pet owner can make the best possible decision.
Like the many consequences of do-it-yourself estate planning, creating a pet trust on your own without the guidance of an attorney could compromise the long-term well-being of the pets named. TrustCounsel’s North Carolina pet trust attorneys create these documents to address the specific needs of the pet owner with regard to existing and pending legislation. Some animals have unique health requirements. Dogs and cats can suffer the same ailments as humans as they age: Allergies, diabetes, even anxiety. The general cost of routine veterinary visits, food, and daily care may be insignificant when compared to the expenses of daily medications and special medical treatments. An attorney with experience creating pet trusts is able to advise how much the pet owner should plan to set aside.