Under the Pennsylvania statutes, a pet trust is called an animal trust. The Estate Planning Attorneys at Klenk Law love their pets like family so we understand why you may want to set up a trust for the care of your pet if you pass away. The trust also covers any pets that may be in gestation at the time of your death. By creating a trust for your pet, you are ensuring they maintain as close to a normal life as possible.
Under Pennsylvania Statutes §7738(a) of Title 20 discusses how long a pet trust (or animal trust) lasts. This states that “[a] trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust would terminate upon the death of the animal or if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal.” The trust ends when your pet passes away. If you create a trust for more than one pet, the provision is good until the last animal dies. This subsection also allows for the trust to be in existence during the settlor’s lifetime.
Subsection (b) talks about how the pet trust (or animal trust) provision is enforced. It states that “[a] trust . . . may be enforced by a person appointed in the trust . . . or . . . by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint . . . or to remove a person appointed.” This subsection suggests that you should to pick someone to monitor the care of your pet. That person can bring a court action if the person caring for your pet is not doing a great job. It also says that the court can appoint someone if you didn’t pick someone to monitor the care of the animal.
A person has “standing” and can go to the court requesting it to enforce the trust or remove the person appointed if someone has an interest in the animal. “The concept of granting standing to a person with a demonstrated interest in the animal’s welfare is derived from the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act, which allows a person interested in the welfare of a ward or protected person to file petitions on behalf of the ward or protected person.” 20 Pa. Stat. and Consol. Stat. Ann. §7738 (West).
Under Pennsylvania law, a trustee or the court can terminate a trust for the care of the animal under Section 414. However, if this happens, the court or the trustee is required to develop something in the alternative to carry out the purpose of the trust.
Subsection (c) discusses funding your pet trust (or animal trust). The amount must be reasonable in the eyes of the court. This means you should fund the trust with enough money for the care and maintenance of your pet. You should consider the age and health of your pet.
For example, you cannot set aside $12,000,000 for the care of your pet. This refers to a New York case involving Leona Helmsley. In that case, she left her Maltese dog named Trouble $12,000,000 in a trust. Some members of her family contested the trust saying the amount was excessive. The dog’s caretaker advised the court that $2,000,000 would be appropriate for the health and maintenance of the dog. That amount was for security (due to death threats received), grooming, food, and a guardian fee. As a result, the court agreed with the guardian and reduced the trust amount from $12,000,000 to $2,000,000. The remainder of the trust money went to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust after Trouble died.
According to the Department of Revenue, any money funded for your pet trust will be subject to the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax at 15%.
If you have any questions about Pet Trusts or any other estate planning topics, feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation. For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand estate planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.