If you’re like most people, you probably assume that when you pass away, a family member or friend will happily give your beloved pet a good home. Maybe they’ve even told you they would.
Unfortunately, too many pets end up in animal shelters because their owner died and no one could or would take them in. Perhaps they tried, but it turned out someone in the home had allergies or the animal had medical or behavioral issues they didn’t know about.
There are a number of ways that you can provide for your pet’s care and well-being in your estate plan. Fortunately, California law allows people to include a pet trust in their estate plan.
What does a pet trust do?
A pet trust allows you to set aside a certain amount of money for the care of your pet. Typically, you want to designate that the money in the trust is to be used solely to care for the pet for the remainder of their natural life.
In the trust, you name the person who will have responsibility for the animal, You’ll also want a trustee to oversee the money and ensure that your animal is being cared for. It’s essential that you talk this over with both your chosen caregiver and trustee to ensure that this is a responsibility they want to take on.
You can be as detailed in this trust as you choose.
You can list your pet by name. However, if you’re setting up the trust while you’re still relatively young and healthy, you may want to say that it applies to any animals you have at the time you pass away. While it’s probably not a good idea to micromanage your animal caregiver from beyond, you can designate that you expect your pet to be in a home, get regular medical care and basics like that.
You’ll also want to have enough money in the trust to cover reasonable and necessary expenses for the lifetime of your pet. You can then designate what will happen to any remaining proceeds after your pet passes away.
It’s a lot to think about, and no two pet trusts are alike. Your estate planning attorney can provide guidance to help you ensure that your beloved companion animals are cared for if they outlive you.