New Jersey Pet Trust Attorney

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It is only natural to ensure your loved ones are taken care of once you pass, and part of that involves developing a legally binding estate plan in New Jersey. While you are creating a plan for your estate, you are going to be making decisions on how to allocate assets for distribution between your family and loved ones. If you have pets or other animals that rely on your care, you may be concerned about how they will be cared for if you are unable to do so.

Though many people assume their family will care for their pets, shelters and rescues are full of animals that were surrendered by family members who are not willing or unable to care for these animals. Fortunately, you have legal options to ensure your animals are taken care of after your passing: pet trusts.

The Animal Law Firm is deeply familiar with the importance of animals in our lives and is diligent about helping you protect the ones you love. We can create a pet trust that ensures your animals are cared for properly and that the person you designate as their caretaker has the funds to provide that care. Our priority is ensuring you and your pets receive first-rate representation that guarantees your legal needs are met.

How Does a Pet Trust Work?

In many aspects, a pet trust works similarly to other types of trusts developed during estate planning. A grantor creates the trust and designates both a trustee and a caregiver. The trustee must manage the funds and oversee the caregiver while the caregiver acts as the trust’s beneficiary.

The trustee chosen should be trustworthy as well as financially responsible. If the designated trustee is unable or unwilling to serve that position, the court can be asked to appoint a trustee by anyone with an interest in the pet’s welfare. The caregiver should also be trustworthy and willing to provide a safe home for the pet while providing the appropriate level of care. Pet trusts are highly customizable, allowing for instructions in caring for the pet, including:

  • -Provisions for Financial Resources
  • -Veterinary Care
  • -Grooming Instructions
  • -Dietary Preferences
  • -Boarding Instructions
  • -Socialization of the Pet

Pet trusts must be funded with either a life insurance policy that names the pet as the beneficiary or a set dollar amount from the estate. Generally, regular payments will be made to the designated caregiver to support the pet’s care. The amount of money that is needed for the pet’s care depends on many factors, including the pet’s species, age, health, and any care requirements. Other expenditures to consider are costs to administer the trust, compensation for the trustee and caregiver, and end-of-life costs like cremation or burial.

Ultimately, pet trusts offer peace of mind by ensuring your pet will be taken care of if you become incapacitated or after your death. If properly formed, pet trusts will also withstand any legal challenges brought by family members that disagree with your decision.

New Jersey Animal Care Trust Laws

Historically, U.S. courts had a low tolerance for bequests to pets; however, this attitude has changed as pet ownership has increased in popularity and pets have become family members within homes. New Jersey law has allowed for trusts that were specifically created by a grantor to support the care of one or more domestic animals since 2001, and they are handled similarly to other trusts. New Jersey laws that affect pet trusts include:

  • -Funds Use
    Outside of any compensation provided to the trustee and caregiver, they may not use the funds for their own benefit. The funds must be used for the benefit of the animal or animals named in the trust until the termination of the trust.
  • -Court Authority
    New Jersey created a method for pet owners to protect their pets, but the law also created a provision to ensure this method was not abused. The court has the authority to lower the assets that are diverted to the trust if the amount is determined to substantially exceed the amount necessary to care for the designated animal(s). If the trust value is reduced by the court, the excess funds are distributed according to the trust terms or to the grantor’s estate if the trust offers no guidance.
  • -Termination Timeline
    Pet trusts terminate after the death of the last animal named in the trust documents or 21 years after the creation of the trust, whichever occurs first. Once the trust has been terminated, any remaining funds will be distributed according to the terms of the trust. Many grantors choose to leave the remaining funds to the caregiver as a reward or a charity that has meaning to the grantor.

Benefits of an Animal Care Trust

There are numerous benefits to creating a legally-binding pet trust in New Jersey:

  • -Legally-Obligated Care
    Whether you are incapacitated or pass away, your pets still need to be properly cared for. Though shelters and rescue facilities do great things, it can be a great stressor to consider your well-loved pets leaving a home environment. Creating a pet trust gives you the opportunity to speak with your loved ones and find a trusted person that is willing to care for your pets for the remainder of their lives while also creating a legal obligation to maintain a high standard of care.
  • -Immediate Release of Funds
    Trusts are not subject to the New Jersey probate process. This means they avoid the potentially lengthy court process of having a will validated and releasing the assets bequeathed in the will. Instead, a pet trust will immediately go into effect, allowing the funds to be spent on helping your pets have a smooth transition into new care.

Talk to a Pet Trusts Attorney

The staff at The Animal Law Firm are just as passionate about our pets as you are about yours, regardless of the type of animal you share your life with. We understand their importance in your life, and we can apply the same level of care that we would expect to receive if we were creating a trust for our own pets. To contact The Animal Law Firm team about creating a trust for your pet(s), reach out to our New Jersey office today.



We know how important your furry family member is to you. Whether they have no legs, two legs, or four or more legs, our priority is making sure you and your pet receive the best representation possible.

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