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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Basics of Pet Trusts in California

You cannot leave money or funds to a pet. Instead, you may want to set up a trust so that your assets or funds can be used for the care of that pet. That way, you know your pet will be cared for, even after you are gone, according to the instructions you have provided in the pet trust.

What Is a Pet Trust?

You often cannot set up car instructions for your pet in a simple will. Instead, you will need to set up a special trust specifically designed for your pets. The trust will only be effective after you pass away. In California, you can also set up a statutory trust that will be effective during your lifetime. In those trusts, you act as the trustee during your lifetime and then name a successor trustee for after you pass.

Either type of pet trust will include a designation of someone that you trust as the trustee and/or caregiver who will take care of your pet. You should carefully select this individual and name an alternate as well. It is always a good idea to speak with the person you are considering naming as the trustee to ensure that he or she is willing to act as your pet’s caretaker.

What Information Is Included in a Pet Trust?

The trust will include an explicit designation of which pets you want the trust to cover. You can only select pets that were alive at the same time that you were. That is, you cannot set up the trust to care for unborn offspring or future pets. The trust itself will dissolve when the last surviving animal passes away.

The trust documents will also include specific instructions on how you would like the trustee to care for your pet. The instructions can range from where your pet should live to the particular type of food that your pet should eat. Caretaking instructions are often incredibly detailed in pet trusts. They may even include specific information about favorite toys and blankets to use.

The trust documents will also contain information on how much money should be in the trust and how that money should be spent. This data often goes hand-in-hand with the instructions you provide for the care of your pet.

Funding the Pet Trust

You should estimate how much money goes into taking care of your pet on an annual basis and multiply that amount by the expected lifespan of your pet. Consider whether you will have pet insurance or will need to pay your pet’s medical expenses as well.

If you create a testamentary trust, your pet trust will be funded by assets in your estate when you pass. If you create a statutory trust, then you will fund the trust as soon as it is created. You can add funds later to the statutory trust, but there is no similar option in the testamentary trust.

Keep in mind that if you put too much into the trust, then the Court may change the amount if it is challenged by your family members or loved ones. If there is any surplus, you can designate who should receive that money, whether it is a loved one or a charity.

Whether you need to set up a pet trust or challenge one, Biddle Law can help. Contact us today for more information.

 


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