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The What, How, And Why Of Pet Trusts: Part One


All of us pet guardians have been left broken-hearted by the sight of a senior pet in the shelter. As we read their descriptions, we were left with a burning question: ‘Why would anybody get rid of a 15-year-old cat?” It seems heartless to subject an animal—especially one in its golden years—to the chaotic existence of a shelter. But, it’s not an uncommon situation.  

In fact, if we were to head over to PetFinder right now, we’d find more than 10,000 senior dogs and over 7,500 elderly cats waiting to be discovered by a loving forever home. Many of them will never leave that shelter.

The reason the grey-muzzled find themselves in a place like that is simple: someone did not take the time to create a pet trust. Tax season is upon us and now is the perfect time to consider a pet trust.

What Is a Pet Trust?

Pet trusts are legally-sanctioned agreements that provide for the care and upkeep of our fur babies in the event of our death or disability. This typically involves setting some of our property (i.e., money) in a trust to provide for our pet’s care when we are no longer able to care for them. During set-up, we must also nominate someone, a new trusted guardian, who will assume responsibility for Fido, Missus Socks, or Mr. Ed after the agreement goes into effect. Regular payments will be made to this person to compensate them for the care and love that they provide our fuzzy family members. Drafting this agreement allows us to make a variety of special requests of the trustee, including:

  • Requirements for housing, feeding, and watering
  • The minimum amount of physical activity they must provide
  • Amount and frequency of vet visits

Depending on the state where the trust is established, the agreement will continue throughout the pet’s life—or for a maximum duration of 21 years.

Why Do You Need a Pet Trust?

We’ll all meet the Grim Reaper one day. It’s rarely something we’re prepared for, and it’s an appointment that can leave those around us—including our fur babies—in limbo. An animal is a lifetime commitment, and it’s not uncommon for them to outlive us. Here’s a table showing the average lifespan of some of the most common pets in the U.S.A.:


12 – 18 years


10- 13 years


20-25 years


8-12 years

Russian Tortoise

30–40 years


40-60 years

So, even something like a rabbit could live way longer than its own. A failure to plan for a situation where our animals outlive is can leave our cats and dogs in a lurch—or, worse, languishing at an overcrowded city shelter. Setting up a pet trust in the case of your death is just as important as buying pet insurance while you’re alive—a topic we talk about in detail [here].

There’s another reason we need pet trusts, however. Courts still see animals as pieces of property, no different from our dining room table or our collection of Russian nesting dolls. We cannot leave property to them in our wills or leave them to their own devices. In the eyes of probate law, their rights are nonexistent. That’s why it’s our responsibility to provide a back-up plan in the case of our death or disability.

Pet Trusts: Part Two is also available. In the meantime, pet insurance is something to consider.

Along with a pet trust, we should all consider pet insurance. A pet trust will make life after we’re gone easier on our fur-babies, but pet insurance makes life, illness, and unforeseeable health-related circumstances, easier on everyone. Learn Everything You Need To Know About Pet Insurance, followed by Common Pet Insurance Myths and then shop Vet Organics vetted pet insurance providers.

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