Woman embracing her horse

Your horses are probably a significant part of your life, and they require much care and support to remain healthy and happy. However, if you’re a horse owner and don’t have someone else in place to help care for these animals if you pass away, it can generate several questions and concerns. 

As a horse owner, some careful advance thought can help you avoid this situation and leave behind a plan that provides continuous care for your beloved animals. 

What Happens If There’s No Will or Trust?

If you pass away without an estate plan, your horses could run into problems in the short term while the rest of your claim is tied up in probate. Probate is the formal North Carolina process for determining the validity of your will, resolving your debts, and distributing any remaining assets to your heirs. With no will, the laws of intestate succession apply. If your heirs receive your horses but don’t have any interest in or the financial means to support them, it can cause family conflict and jeopardize your horses’ future well-being. 

This is especially true if you live alone and your horses reside on your property. It requires their caretaker to either move the horses to a new location or regularly visit or live in your property to provide them with the necessary care. Furthermore, your loved ones might not know how to care for these animals and could be quite surprised by the costs involved.

Who Should Care For Your Horses?

A few options are available to you when caring for your horses, and you need to make a plan that best suits your situation. You might start by considering who can take care of your horses and who you’d like to manage them. If you already know a boarder, a breeder, or a farm owner who has the space and would be willing, start the process with a conversation. 

Regarding someone else caring for your horses, there are two main ways to designate that person and ensure that they fulfill your wishes after you pass away. The first is by naming the horse in your will, and the second is by creating a trust

Within your will, you can name the person you’d like to care for your horses. You can also specify if you’re leaving a particular amount of money to care for your horses. However, one challenge with this approach is that your will does not immediately transfer your property after you pass away. Since it can take time for your property to go through probate, a trust provides a more immediate solution. 

In addition to naming a trustee to care for your horses after you pass away, you can communicate any instructions you have for the horses’ care through a trust. For example, perhaps you want the horses to continue living at a particular boarding location. Or maybe your horses are actively involved in an animal therapy program, and you want that relationship to stay active. When you create a trust, you can explain your desires for horses’ care. 

Trust Types for Horses

The best way to plan for the care of your horses is with a North Carolina pet trust within a revocable living trust. 

While you could potentially use what is known as a testamentary trust, there can be some downsides. A testamentary trust is written into a will and does not come into existence until after your death. Because your will must go through probate, this can lead to delays before the testamentary trust is created and funded with assets from your estate, which can raise several questions--who will care for your horses until the trust is established? Who will pay the care expenses?

A better solution is a pet trust within a revocable living trust, sometimes referred to as an inter vivos trust. It is a trust created while the trust owner is still living, which means you can have the peace of mind that it’s being administered as you expected. A revocable living trust is not subject to probate and some of the delays that come with the probate process, which means there can be more immediate access to assets to pay for your horses’ care and well-being.

The best option to determine the best tool and how to properly set up and fund a pet trust is to speak with an estate planning lawyer in NC about the current care needs and costs of caring for your horses. You can use this as a base to decide how to move forward with your next steps and which kind of planning option is best for you. 

You care about your horse or horses and want to support these animals if something unexpected happens to you. When you put your plans in place well in advance, you can exercise choice and flexibility in your planning strategy. 

We Help Families Build Better Lives By Planning for a Secure Future Through Estate Planning

Since a trust is a more complex estate planning document, you want to sit down with a lawyer. Take the time to search for an “estate planning attorney near me,” then give us a call at Carolina Family Estate Planning at 919-443-3035. We appreciate the love you have for your horses. These beautiful animals have contributed to your life in immeasurable ways, and they deserve the best care possible, should you become incapacitated or pass away. By establishing a trust now, you can ensure that your horses will continue to live as if you were still caring for them yourself. 

Our estate planning law firm helps families build better lives by planning for a secure future via estate planning, asset protection, and long-term care planning, and that includes your magnificent horses. Do you have questions about the next steps? We’re here to help you get your ducks in a row. Call us today at 919-443-3035 or schedule a needs assessment call. We’ll help you achieve the peace of mind of knowing that your pets will be safe, healthy, and happy after you’re gone.