New York Will for Your Pet

Want to ensure your pet is taken care of after you die? You can set up a trust for your beloved animal in a New York Will.

Section 7-8-1 of the New York estates, powers & trusts statute allows any person to set up a trust for the ‘care of a designated domestic or pet animal’. This is called an honorary trust for pets.

How does the trust work?

You simply appoint a trustee and designate an amount of money or property (or both) to be used for care of your pet. The trustee must use these assets for the benefit of the designated animals. The money and property you leave in your New York Will for your pet must not be used by the trustee for his/her personal use.

You can also nominate a person to enforce the conditions of the trust on behalf of your pet. So, for example, if your trustee starts pilfering money and using it to buy themselves fancy jewelry, a holiday or whatever, then the person you nominate to enforce the trust can apply to the court to have them removed or to take some other appropriate action. This way, your pet has a ‘legal representative’ if you like.

When does the trust end?

The trust terminates once your pet dies or after 21 years (whichever is the sooner). Your New York Will should stipulate what happens to any moneys which are left over once the trust expires. Otherwise, they just go to your estate (which means in accordance with the residuary clause in your Will).

Can I leave everything to my pets?

A trust in your New York Will for your pet isn’t designed to leave exorbitant amounts for pets. If the court believes the amount exceeds what is reasonably required for the care of your animal, the judge may reduce the assets you leave in the trust. The excess will go to your estate (pursuant to your New York Last Will & Testament).

Where can I get the clause?

A Wills and estates attorney can provide you with the appropriate wording for creating a New York Will for your pet. Make sure the clause allows you to appoint a trustee, a person to enforce the trust, to designate a number of pets and to stipulate who gets any remaining balance once the pet trust ends.

Who should I appoint as trustee?

When making a New York Will for your pet, you want to ensure that the person looking after your pet’s trust fund is actually trustworthy and willing to carry out the task. Talk the matter over with them first, because if they end up pulling out, then the court gets to pick the trustee. The trustee can be the same person as who you leave your pet to (as a beneficiary). Alternatively, these tasks can go to two different individuals. It’s up to you, depending on your circumstances and the willingness of your family and friends.

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