Pet Trust – What Is It and Do You Need One?

Many people don’t want to think about what happens when they pass away or become incapacitated. However, this is something we need to think about and plan for. We need to have legal documents in place to help our family and pets in case something happens to us. You might have a Will or trust set up for your family but what about your pets? Have you ever thought about setting up a pet trust?


A pet trust is a personal trust document. It is a legal document much like a Will. It has to be enforced. The person that initiates the trust is the grantor. The grantor dictates specific instructions regarding the care of the pets. The most important thing is appointing a trustee. A trustee is a person or entity that is obligated to carry out the instructions of the pet trust.


pet trust

Mom loved her Buffy so very much. Image credit: Gisele Gamble



The grantor of a pet trust needs to put down specific instructions in the pet trust document. This directs the trustee on how to care for the pet. Some things to address would be:

What food does the pet eat?

What type of environment is the pet accustomed to?

How much exercise does the pet need?

Which vet should the pet be taken to and how often?

What are your wishes for the vaccinations of your pets?

How often should the trustee visit the pet if the pet is in another person’s care?

What happens when the pet dies?

pet trust

Our dogs are buried in a local pet cemetery. This stone pays homage to our border collie, Buffy. Image credit: Gisele Gamble



The trustee needs to be someone that you can trust with your beloved pet. This can be a great friend, dependable relative, or rescue organization that you trust. Talk to the person or entity about taking on the responsibility of being trustee before you appoint them in the pet trust document.


Once you have your instructions down you will need funding for the pet trust. You can use an investment, money market, or savings account. How much you leave to your pet trust depends on the size of the account and your number of pets. You may set the pet trust up as the sole beneficiary or leave the trust a percentage of an account. It is best to get a tax ID number for your pet trust. This can be obtained in the United States from the Internal Revenue Service. You can do this or ask your attorney to take care of it.


pet trust

Here are four of our five dogs we had in 2007. Image credit: Gisele Gamble


Years ago when I discovered pet trusts I immediately wanted to set one up. I talked to my attorney and she gave me instructions as to what she would need. I thought long and hard about what I wanted for my pets and wrote it all down. I have a rescue organization that I’ve worked with for 12 years so I set them up as trustee. As far as funding, I decided to fund it from one of my IRA’s.

According to the ASPCA pet trusts are legal in all states of the U.S. and the District of Columbia except oneCurrently, Minnesota is the only state that doesn’t have a pet trust law. If you live in Minnesota, contact your state representative and ask them about this. If you live in another country check with your representatives to see if there are pet trust laws in force.

pet trust

This is an all too familiar sight in animal shelters. Image credit: Hdimagelib


When I used to help with the local municipal animal shelter I’d see cage cards stating “Owner died”. Behind the bars, a sad and terrified dog sat there not understanding why it was there. This broke my heart. Usually, if these dogs weren’t adopted they were euthanized.

Our pets are like our children. They deserve to be well cared for after we’re gone. A pet trust is ideal to ensure that your pets will be taken care of when you’re gone. So I’ll ask you again, have you ever thought of setting up a pet trust?







    • Yes, the no-kill shelter I volunteer with has taken in several dogs and cats whose owners died and they family couldn’t take them. The municipal shelters are usually a different story.

  1. This is something we have not thought of before I read you post. We don’t really know what would happen to us and as much as we love our pets, we have to make sure they live their lives as normally as they did even if we are gone. I will talk this over with my husband. Thanks for the info.

  2. On vacation we passed a pet cemetery. I had never seen one in person before, so I told my husband I wanted to get out and walk around. I fixed a lot of the fallen items and cleaned off some of he graves. It’s nice you always have a place to visit them.

  3. I haven’t ever seen a trust or will for pets. This is a good idea because 90% of the time, the animal ends up at the pound or in foster care. I know that I wouldn’t want my dog to go to the pound.

    • That is the reason I set a pet trust up. I couldn’t imagine my spoiled kids (dogs) that love to sleep on the bed and sofa being tied outside 24/7, or dying in the municipal shelter.

  4. This is simply amazing concepts. This is a great reminder for those who haven’t trying to do this kind of care. We must not left our dogs behind. They have feelings too, like us.

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