Pets are becoming more of a part of people’s lives than ever before. Whether it is a young person, couple, or someone whose children no longer depend on them, pets are still dependent daily on their owners for their care and comfort. It is important to consider who can take care of the pets in the event of a vacation/trip, a short-term illness/hospitalization, or death. I recommend people carry a card in their wallet/purse with their contact information to notify others that their pets should not be left alone in case of a person’s unexpected incapacity or death.
Indiana law, since 2005, has allowed a trust to be established for the care of pets. This law is found in Indiana Code sec. 30–4‑2–18. Basically, a pet can not own property directly; however, a trust can be funded at death that can provide for the care of their pets. A caretaker, or trustee, is named with the terms and conditions of the care of their pets for expenses such as food, veterinary costs, transportation, and boarding and other expenses; also, a stipend/payment for the caretaker can also be included in the pet trust. A pet trust can only be established for a pet that is alive at the death of the person (“settlor”), who must create a pet trust as part of their Last Will and Testament. The pet trust can not be established for pets born after the death of the settlor. It is important to have a contingent beneficiary(ies) named in the event the pet(s) are not alive at your death, or upon the later death of the pets and the trust will be dissolved and remaining trust funds distributed.
Another option is selecting an institution such as the Purdue University Peace of Mind program. In exchange for a bequest of $25,000.00 per pet upon your death to Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine, it will find an appropriate home to provide proper care and housing for your pet.
Many people will have special instructions and requests, such as for their pet not to be caged for an extended period of time. This should be documented in a letter of instruction to the caretaker/trustee of a pet trust. It is important to discuss with people who you would like to step up if that day comes to confirm they are willing to provide care for your pets.