Pet Trust vs. Pet Protection Agreement

Pet Trust vs. Pet Protection Agreement

by Brette Sember, J.D., April 2019

Your furry family members are probably just as important to you as your human family members are. Making sure Miss Kitty or Mr. Doggo are taken care of after you pass away can give you peace of mind. A pet protection agreement or a pet trust allows you to plan for their care and set aside money so they will always have their needs met, even if you aren't there for them.

Woman smiling while holding French bulldog with tongue out

Pet Trust

A pet trust is a legal document that provides for your animal buddy. You, as the grantor, create a written document that complies with your state's trust laws. You'll want to have an attorney or legal expert help you set up your pet trust because each state is different.

The existence of the pet trust allows you to stash away money for pet care and choose someone to become your pet's new mom or dad. The trust can be set up to take effect when you die or during your lifetime if you're incapacitated.

How to Set Up a Pet Trust

In your pet trust fund, you name a trustee. This person will be in charge of managing the money you set aside for your fur child. You also name a guardian to be your pet's future parent and provide all the care and love your pal needs. You'll also want to choose a successor trustee and guardian so that, if your first choices aren't available, there is backup.

You place money into the trust by setting up a bank account for the trust. How much you should put in depends on how old your pet is. Look at your pet's life expectancy and add up yearly costs (which will likely increase as your pet ages and needs more medical care) and multiply, to come up with an appropriate amount to fund the trust.

Details in the Trust

There are lots of details you can include in the pet trust to make sure all your worries are addressed, such as:

  • A provision that, if you have multiple pets, they will be kept together
  • A directive that, if you enter a nursing home or assisted living, the trust can pay the nursing home for pet care, if your pet is allowed to go with you
  • Details about pet care such as your preferred vet, chosen brand of food, your pet's daily routine, how extensive you want medical care to be, when euthanasia may be appropriate, and what should happen with your pet's remains
  • A statement that the trustee will inspect your pet regularly (you could choose monthly, semiannually, or yearly, whatever you're comfortable with) to help ensure your little sweetie is being cared for appropriately.
  • A directive about where any remaining trust funds should go after your pet passes away (you might want to donate these to your favorite shelter).

Executing a Pet Trust

As part of your estate plan for your pet, the pet trust must be in writing and signed by you in front of witnesses and a notary, in compliance with your state's requirements for the execution of a trust. Give a copy of the trust to the trustee, the guardian, heirs, and your vet.

Benefits of a Pet Trust vs. a Pet Protection Agreement

A pet trust has a few benefits that a pet protection agreement doesn't have:

  • The trust funds will be handled by the trustee and will be carefully distributed and used only for your pet.
  • The trust can pay funds to a nursing home for pet care so that if you have to go, the facility has a financial incentive to take your pet.
  • If you suspect your heirs will challenge your leaving money for pet care, a trust is a legally enforceable instrument that is hard to overturn.
  • The trust allows you to have the trustee check on your pets, so there is some monitoring to be sure they are getting the care they need.

Pet Protection Agreement

A pet protection agreement is a private, legally enforceable agreement that names a guardian for your pet, as well as a distribution representative who will handle any funds you leave for your pet's care. You'll want to name a successor guardian and distribution representative in case the people you chose are not available.

How a Pet Protection Agreement Works

The agreement ensures that, if you pass away, or if you become unable to care for your pet yourself during your life, the guardian will take over and give your pet a home. You can (but don't have to) set aside money for the guardian to use for the pet. The amount is up to you and doesn't have to be enough to last your pet's lifetime.

Details of the Agreement

You can include specifics in the agreement about your pets and their care, such as:

  • A statement that, if you have more than one pet, they should be kept together
  • Details about your pet's care, such as your preferred vet, regular brand of pet food, the pet's daily schedule, medical care requests, when euthanasia could be appropriate, and disposal of your pet's remains
  • A request that, if the guardian or successor guardian can no longer care for your pets, they go to the rescue organization of your choice
  • Payment to the guardian for taking on this responsibility

Executing a Pet Agreement

Your agreement should be in writing. You should sign it in front of two witnesses and a notary. Give copies to the guardian, the distribution representative, your vet, and heirs.

Benefits of a Pet Protection Agreement vs. a Pet Trust

There are some aspects of a pet agreement that make it preferable to a pet trust, such as:

  • A pet protection agreement is something you can set up yourself without an attorney's help, which makes it a simpler and more affordable alternative.
  • The agreement doesn't require you to formally set up a bank account to hold money for your pet's care. (You don't have to set aside any funds if you don't want to.)

However you choose to set it up, your end goal is to make sure your animal babies are cared for after you're gone, and either a trust or an agreement will do that. A trust is more formal, with more oversight than an agreement. A trust requires funding, while an agreement does not. Choose the option that feels more comfortable for you.