The Living Will Vs. The Pet Trust


A living will is an advance directive that can state what you want done should you become unable to make decisions. A good estate planner should address this issue when consulting their client. Normally it is for health care issues, but you can certainly establish what happens to your pets as well. You can argue that wills are not as secure, and that courts favor humans over animals, and that is true. However, the courts give the MOST deference to the intent of the deceased – if it is clear they wanted certain funds to go to the care and upkeep of their animals, then that is that. No matter how upset the kids might be, it is hard to argue with clear language. Unlike other areas of contract law, where weak drafting creates loopholes, probate courts really DO want to protect the wishes of the deceased, and poor drafting may be overlooked if the intent was clear. A pet trust is more secure than a living will, but more rigid. Many people like the flexibility of a will, I know I do – I need to go in to my estate planner (as a matter of fact) – to add Luka to my will. If I had a pet trust set up, this would be a lot more cumbersome. Trusts are also taxed, though pet trusts, I believe, are at a lower rate than most. Wills and trusts have their good and their bad points. Depending on the person, on their pets, on what they want to happen when they pass, one or the other may be a better option. I think it is a bit premature, considering how relatively “new” pet trusts are, to make a broad generalization that they are better. They might be, but really, that may not be the case – and quite a few states do not even consider them legal.

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