Ruffled Feathers Sanctuary residents
Succession Planning

    This absolutely free form gives you a legally enforceable right to decide who and how a person(s)
you name cares for your pet when you no longer can personally do so; i.e., by  becoming
disabled, having to leave your independent living quarters (i.e., in with family or to
assisted living, nursing home, or hospice) and/or  dying.    

Download Free Bird Trust Form

    Why do I need to fill out a form?

    Without completing a form to set up a Trust, you can only hope that someone will take care of your pet when you no longer can.  There is no way to assure that your reliance on someone else is legally binding or enforceable, even if you have to pay that person to do so.  Without a form, your arranging with someone to care for your pet is simply, at best, a nonbinding promise unsupported by any special recognition of that pet’s dependency on you for its continuing life and well-being.    

    What is a Trust?

    By law, a companion animal is considered tangible property and is treated like any other inanimate object you own, e.g., furniture, car, jewelry, etc., but not as a living thing.
 
    The only recognized way to exercise any control over your pet (property) (either when you no longer can, are disabled or after you die) is to create an arrangement dictating how your pet is to be cared for when you no longer can do so without relinquishing your legally enforceable ownership rights and control over that pet. This is done using an agreement (or trust) under which you “wear two hats” (as the pet’s owner and as trustee of the trust) and you and your pet become “beneficiaries” of the trust.  During your lifetime, as the owner/grantor of the trust you hold beneficial title (ownership rights) to your pet and the trust holds legal title to your pet. You, as trustee, continue to control the care of your pet; when you can no longer care for your pet (for whatever reason), the legal title remains in the trust and your named successor(s), as the “successor trustee(s),” act for your and your pet’s benefit according to your instructions in the trust.  Consequently, the continued care of your pet is NOT dependent on your ability to provide such care personally during your lifetime or after you die. You, as the original trustee, and each successor trustee act solely for your and your pet’s benefit (as the beneficiaries of the trust) in accordance with your dictates in the trust, both during your lifetime and after you die.        

Why must I use a Trust?

    It is the only legally enforceable arrangement that gives you the ability to control matters when you are either incompetent to do so/disabled or are dead. Without a Trust, any control you legally have disappears when you are either incapacitated or dead. This situation is crucial for all dependent companion animals but absolutely critical for the overwhelming majority of pet exotic birds who, because of their longevity, often live for decades after the deaths of their original, loving guardians. This normal occurrence causes great trauma, confusion, loss, and sadness to each surviving bird, often signaling the end of a beautiful, secure existence and the beginning of a twilight existence of pain, devastating loss, fear, insecurity, and suffering that can last for many, many years, often triggering stress-related behaviors, e.g., plucking, self-mutilation, aggressiveness, screaming, etc, all symptoms of their individual pain.    

How much does it cost to fill out the form?

    NOTHING. THE FORM IS FREE AND THERE IS NO COST NOW OR AT ANY TIME IN THE FUTURE.   The form can be completed at any time by downloading a copy from this website and without any cost to you.  You retain complete control over any financial arrangement you might make with your trustee to compensate her/him for caring for your pet.   Such a financial arrangement is not necessary to the validity and enforceability of the Trust.    

   How much does it customarily cost to set up a Trust elsewhere?

    Costs to set up a pet trust vary, depending upon the attorney who drafts the trust document.  The average is around $2500.

Does it cost me anything to maintain the Trust?

No.

    Can I change the Trust?  Can I change or add Trustees?  Add new pets and remove deceased ones?    

    Yes.  All without any cost to you; you alone retain complete control over the terms of the Trust, now and in the future.

What can I do if I have no one to name as my successor Trustee?

    Consider naming a third party animal rights organization such as a sanctuary like RUFFLED FEATHERS® PARROT RESCUE AND SANCTUARY who might agree to accept your appointment.    

    Why must I have the form notarized?    

    There are only a very few instances where you can control circumstances that happen after you become incompetent or die.  Because this ability is the EXCEPTION, NOT the rule, a document purporting to give you that ability must be properly executed with attention to legal formalities including witnesses and a notary.  The notary serves as an impartial witness to validate that you who appear before them to have your signature acknowledged is the person whom you purport to be, and that you appear competent to execute the document. The purpose of this is to prevent impostors from forging someone's signature and then having it notarized as if the actual person had been present and signed the document under oath in the notary's presence.  In acknowledging a person's signature, the notary is also attesting to the fact that the person signing appears to be mentally competent and does not appear to be signing under undue influence or coercion.

   In Schedule A of the form, what is the difference between an unfunded and a funded Trust? 
Is there any legal difference between them?    

    An unfunded trust has no money set aside to pay for the support of the pet, whereas funded trusts do.  Legally, both trusts are equally as enforceable; however, as a practical matter, unless a trustee otherwise has access to your funds to pay the cost of the care (i.e., trustee is also trustee of another living trust covering your other property, your executor/executrix of your will, or your power of attorney where you are incompetent), s/he is not legally required to pay for the care of your pet out of their own pocket except as a volunteer because of their personal affection and connection with you and the pet as beneficiaries of the pet trust.  Consequently, there is a chance that an unfunded pet trust simply fails due to no money to sustain it.
 
    A pet trust can be funded by a lump sum gift in a savings account, a CD or bond investment (e.g., US Savings Bonds), as a beneficiary of an insurance policy, or IRA, retirement or other investment account, and/or as a legacy in your will.    

    Do I have to fund the pet Trust at the same time as I sign the form?    

    NO, although of course this would be ideal. However, this can be done later.
    Contact RFS if you have any questions and we will try in real time to answer them.  Please expressly state that your inquiry is in connection with Succession Planning.