During estate planning consultations, people often ask me: “What will happen to my pets?” It is a very good question. For many of us, our dogs, cats and other animals are an integral part of the family. In the past, one had to rely on informal promises or non-binding language in a last will and testament or letter. Fortunately, in 2010, the Oklahoma legislature created another option: pet trusts.
Today, Oklahoma law recognizes the validity of a trust established for the care of a designated animal. Like a revocable living trust, one can name a trustee to manage the pet trust. The trustee is required to provide care for the animal in accordance with the trust’s terms. What’s more, Oklahoma law permits the appointment of a “trust enforcer”, a named individual who ensures that the trustee carries out his or her duties. Finally, one lists a remainder beneficiary for any assets left over after caring for the animal.
There are many things to think about in planning your estate. But do not forget your furry friends. While Fido may not realize he has his own trust, you will have peace of mind knowing he will be taken care of should something happen to you.