Pet Trusts: Caring for Your Pet After You Pass

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

We love our pets as much as we love our family. Trusts can be set up to take care of our families after we die, but what about our pets? Until 2016, Minnesota had no laws allowing for this sort of posthumous care. In 2016, Minnesota became the last state to allow trusts to be set up for pets. This article provides information on this relatively new law, including what a pet trust is, how a pet trust works, and how you can set up a trust for your pets to ensure they are cared for after you pass.

What is a Trust?

A trust enables a third party, the trustee, to hold assets belonging to a grantor which are intended to pass to beneficiaries. Trusts are very customizable and can specify the number of arrangements. For example, a grantor can specify when the assets should pass to beneficiaries and who the beneficiaries are. Trusts allow grantors to control the distribution of their assets, protect their estates from creditors and others they do not wish to receive their assets, and offer grantors a private means of passing assets to beneficiaries.

How Do Pet Trusts Work?

In Minnesota, pets are considered to be personal property. Since property cannot legally own other property or inhered an individual’s assets, this was a problem for individuals wanting to make sure their pets were cared for after they passed. The law passed in Minnesota in 2016 provides several helpful measures for pet owners looking to make sure their pet is cared for in the event they are incapacitated or die.

Pursuant to the 2016 law, pet owners create and fund the trust for their pets. There is no restriction on the type of animal which qualifies as a pet, however, all covered pets must be alive during the owner’s lifetime. The trust can be funded through a gift, life insurance, or any other trust funding option. Funding for pets should be a “reasonable” amount needed for their care, and can include costs like food, medical expenses, or the lifestyle the pet is accustomed to.

Pet owners then designate a trustee, who not only manages the pet trust but also will step in to take care of your pet in the event you die or are incapacitated. What is unique about pet trusts is that pet owners also designate an enforcer, who ensures that your pet is cared for according to the terms of your trust. If owners do not designate an enforcer, the court may enforce one.

The trust lasts for 90 years or until the last pet provided for in the trust dies, whichever is shorter. If funds remain in the trust at the end of this period, the remainder will pass to the grantor’s heirs unless the grantor directs the remainder to be distributed otherwise.

How Can I Set Up a Pet Trust?

Pet owners considering making their pets a part of their estate plan can contact Unique Estate Law to learn more about their options in setting up a trust for their pet. Chris Tymchuk specializes in estate planning and is able to talk you through your options to ensure you make a

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.