Protecting Four-Legged Loved Ones: How to Include Your Pets in Your Estate Plan

You know that an estate plan protects your whole family but did you know that this extends all
the way to your four-legged loved ones? Many Texans wonder what will happen to their pets if
they pass. Who will ensure their continued care and how will costs be covered? A pet trust
provides the answers.

What is a Pet Trust and How Does it Work?

To see how a pet trust can protect your furry loved ones it is important to know a thing or two
about trusts in general. 

A trust is an estate planning tool that allows an individual to set aside property or assets for the
benefit of a third-party beneficiary. Assets placed in a trust are titled under the name of the trust
itself instead of under that of the original owner. This feature provides a range of legal benefits. 
Trusts are used to protect the trustor’s assets, to ensure assets are efficiently (and privately)
distributed upon the trustor’s passing, to reduce taxes, to protect loved ones, and, yes, to care for
beloved pets (among many other purposes). By providing a legal framework to earmark assets
for a specific purpose, trusts allow for many benefits that a Will or other estate planning
documents do not. 

A pet trust specifically allows you to not only set aside funds for your pet’s continued care but
also provides a space where you can craft a plan to meet their special needs. Your trust might, for
instance, dictate that your four-legged loved ones stay in your home or in familiar surroundings.
It might also instruct that a certain percentage of funds be used for favorite toys, activities, or

When designing a pet trust, you need to account for a number of considerations. Beyond the
financial resources provided and the special instructions written into your trust, you also need to
determine who will be responsible for looking after your pets and who will hold responsibility
for the administration of your trust.  

Unlike most other trusts, a pet trust has no ascertainable beneficiary and thus no one to hold your
trustee accountable should they fail to carry out their duties. While your pet, of course, benefits
from your trust, they are not able to sue for negligence. To account for this risk, pet trusts also
include an “enforcer” who makes sure your trust’s provisions are observed. Either an individual
or “animal care panel” of your design can be assigned to this role. 

To learn more about executing a pet trust and ensuring that your furry loved one maintains the
level of care they deserve no matter the circumstances, do not hesitate to reach out to the Hailey-
Petty Law Firm either by calling (512) 910-8977 in Austin, (210) 570-2458 in San Antonio, or
by using the contact form on our website.