Estate Planning for Pets

Published by Eileen Kelley on

An often overlooked component of the new Wisconsin Trust Code, Wis. Stat. § 701.0408 authorizes pet trusts in Wisconsin for the first time.  The new statute creates a new estate planning mechanism for furry family members. 

Previously, a Wisconsin pet owner hoping to direct funds for the care of pets in the event of his or her death had to leave funds indirectly.  The enforceability of a trust created for this purpose was not clear.  But the new law confirms the validity of pet trusts to fund the care of animals in Wisconsin.

A pet trust can be created as a standalone trust or as part of a broader revocable living trust.  An individual can be appointed to carry out the terms of the trust. This need not be the same person selected as trustee of a revocable living trust.  The trust terminates upon the death of the last surviving animal it was designed to care for.  Funds not used for the pets are distributed to the trust’s creator or his or her successors.

Funding is an important consideration for ongoing care of pets. Pet trusts can provide funds for an animal’s needs, including food, toys, and veterinary care.  Pet trusts can also document instructions for care and the trust maker’s wishes for major decisions for the pet.  However, it’s not clear yet how these wishes will be treated by a Wisconsin court. This is why in addition to the funding provided in a pet trust, estate planning for pets should also involve confirming the guardianship of pets and discussing your wishes with your potential pet guardians.  

To speak to one of our animal loving attorneys about providing for your pets in your estate plan, please contact one of the members of the Trust & Estates Team. 

Mr. Fritz, the author's Miniature Schnauzer.

Filed Under: estate planning, trusts and estates, pets

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