Trusts Help Provide Care for Horses when Owners Cannot

Trusts Help Provide Care for Horses when Owners Cannot

Equine trusts are useful tools to make sure horses receive proper care if their owners die or become incapacitated.


Ken Chin knew nothing about horse-keeping when he inherited 13 Arabian horses from his cousin. Fortunately, his local horse community stepped in to help him care for the animals and later to place them in quality homes. But a trust fund established for the animals' care would have made the task easier and more efficient, Chin said.

“My cousin planned to establish a trust for the horses, but she passed away before she could get to it,” Chin said. “The horses and I would have been better off if she had done it in time.”

Attorney John Compton said equine trusts are useful tools to make sure horses receive proper care if their owners die or become incapacitated. These trusts allow owners to dictate every aspect of their horses' care, Compton said. Terms of the trust name the horse’s caregiver, if and where it will be boarded, and generally establish a specific standard of living for the animal, he said. Owners can dictate what feed and supplements the horse receives, as well as the animal's daily exercise routine and whether and how often a trainer will work with the horse. Trust terms can also spell out who will provide veterinary, dental, and farrier care and how often, and can determine the disposition of the horse's remains, Compton said.

“The trust should also name the trustee and the successor trustee, as well as the caregiver and the successor caregiver,” Compton said. “Information identifying the horse and appropriate liability insurance information should also be included.”

Owners can choose between testamentary trust or a living trust, Compton said.

“A testamentary trust becomes effective when the horse owner's will is declared valid by a district court, so funds may not be available during the gap between when the owner dies and the estate is closed,” he explained. “Also, a testamentary trust does not provide protection if an owner becomes disabled and unable to care for the animals.”

In contrast, a living trust takes effect immediately when it is established and executed, Compton said.

“A living trust can be funded by assets transferred to the trust, and by additional funds contributed after the trust has been established,” Compton said. “Also, it avoids the availability delay between the owner's death or disability.”

Compton recommends owners talk with family members, friends, or whoever might be named as trustees or caregivers before establishing an equine trust of any kind. He also advises owners to talk with their lawyer before establishing a trust fund of any kind, as not all states have statutory animal trust laws.

Ultimately, though, advance planning is critical, Compton said.

“Planning ahead provides the owner with legal assurances that their wishes will be honored and takes the burden off of family members and friends,” Compton said. “It provides care for your horse using your rules.”

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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