dog with owner

Whether a cat or a dog, a spider or a snake, or something different and exotic, Americans love their pets. As many as two out of every three households in the United States have one or more pets, with dogs, cats, and fish being the most popular. Not only do Americans like having pets, they like spending money on them as well. In 2022, Americans spent an estimated $136.8 billion on their pets.

It is understandable, then, that you would want to protect your animals in the event you die while your pets remain alive. The good news is that both Florida and Missouri permit you to create a trust to care for your animals. But do not think that a trust for your pets operates the same way as a trust for your spouse or your children might work. 

Florida’s and Missouri’s Pet Trust Statutes and Their Key Features

In 2005, the Missouri Legislature enacted Missouri Revised Statute 456.4-408, sometimes referred to as the Pet Trust Statute. The Florida Legislature passed an identical Pet Trust Statute three years earlier and found at Florida Statute 736.0408. These statutes allow you to create a trust to care for your animals. In some regards, a pet trust created pursuant to this law works like any other trust. It is overseen by a testator who is tasked with managing the trust’s assets to care for your pets. But there are some key distinctions as well:

The Trust Ends When Your Last Living Pet Dies

With a traditional trust, you are able to benefit children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren (and beyond!) that have not yet been born. The trust can persist indefinitely so long as there is a testator willing to serve, beneficiaries to receive the trust’s property, and property in the trust itself.

However, a pet trust will automatically end upon the death of the animal or animals for which the trust was created to benefit. These animals must be alive during your lifetime and alive when you create the trust. If your trust is for the benefit of more than one animal, then the trust ends when the last animal that benefits from the trust dies.

Property Can Be Distributed As Part of Your Estate

Another key difference between a traditional trust and a pet trust is that the property in a pet trust can only be used to benefit the intended animals. The trustee cannot put the pet trust’s assets to other uses. What is more, only a reasonable amount of trust assets, as determined by the court, can be used for the benefit of your animals. Any trust property left over upon the termination of the trust will become part of your estate and will pass accordingly.

Where to Turn for Help Setting Up a Pet Trust

If you have pets and you are concerned about their welfare if you are to suddenly pass, a pet trust might be an option for you. Contact Centonzio Law PLLC and set up a consultation with our experienced estate planning team. We can help you decide how best to care for and protect the things you care about most, including your beloved pets.

Contact us online or call our Kansas, Missouri office at 816.710.9455.