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Pet owners' love for their animals often lives longer than they do. Many include their pets in their wills. Others opt to establish trusts for their pets' care.
Texas Tech University School of Law professor Gerry W. Beyer specializes in estates, wills and trusts. Since he wrote his first legal treatise on pet trusts 15 years ago, Beyer has seen the field go from an obscure legal move that very few folks talked about to a "pretty well-accepted" part of estate planning.
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Most states have laws that allow for pet trusts, says Beyer. But even if your state lacks specific statutory language, it's still possible to set up a pet trust.
You don't have to be wealthy to set up a pet trust. Beyer does advise, though, working with an attorney who specializes in these types of legal final wishes.
And note that a trust doesn't mean zero tax concerns. Beyer says that depending on how the trust is structured, the responsible tax party could be the pet owner in the case of a living trust; the trust beneficiary, who typically is the pet's caregiver; or the trust itself.
Still, a trust is a dependable way to ensure your pet gets the care you want the animal to have after you're gone. "You get certainty," says Beyer.