Older woman with her dog

How Estate Planning Can Impact Your Pet in California

It may be difficult to imagine our lives without our dogs, cats, and other pets. But, what about their lives without you? While it’s unpleasant to think about, sometimes our pets outlive us. When this occurs, it’s important to know that they will be well cared for. Luckily, there are steps that you can take to ensure they are comfortable. California has several ways that you can look out for the well-being of your pets through your estate plan. 

Pet Trusts

One way in which you can plan for the care of your pet is through a trust. California allows pet owners to set up trusts for the care of their animals after they are gone. These trusts can be established to provide funds for a pet’s care. However, it’s important to note that the state still considers pets as property – treated no differently than a lampshade – and therefore they are unable to inherit property. 

Pet owners will often choose to leave funds to a designated individual who will provide for the pet by way of their food, shelter, and medical care. While pets can’t inherit property, property can be left in the trust to be sold and the proceeds used for the care of the pet.

Pet owners can also include specific instructions in the pet trust as to how they want their pet to be cared for. This may include everything from their dietary needs to their daily routine. The pet trust may also include contingencies for what is to happen should something occur. For instance, the pet owner may include a provision that should the designated caregiver be unwilling or unable to take the pet, the funds within the trust are to be used for finding the pet a new home. 

Caretaker Designations 

One of the biggest concerns for pet owners is specifically who will care for their pet after they’re gone. Pet owners are able to designate someone, through a trust (or will) to care for their pet.  It’s important to choose someone loving and responsible, who you trust will care for your pet in the manner you would desire. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with the person whom you’re considering. 

Although California allows for pet trusts, the state still sets limits as to how long a pet trust is legally binding (21 years). Additionally, a pet trust must be specifically for the benefit of the pet and no one else. If the pet trust is found to be unreasonable, it can be challenged. 

Biddle Law Can Help 

Our pets are our family members. Therefore, it’s obviously very important to establish documents to ensure that your pets are cared for in a manner that you desire. Since these trusts can be challenged, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced California estate planning attorney who knows the current laws and has experience dealing with such important estate planning issues. 

At Biddle Law, we are here to answer all of your questions and walk you through the entire process. We care about you and your loved ones (including your pets) and want to help in any way we can. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!