Include your dog in your estate plan

For many people, their pets are not just loyal companions, but members of their family, and that carries with it a responsibility for their continued care and comfort. Unfortunately, many pets end up in shelters because their owners become incapacitated or die and are no longer able to care for them. No written plans had been included in their estate planning documents, such as a living trust, to ensure that family members or friends will continue to care for their dogs, cats, or other animals.

California residents now have the option of creating a Pet Trust to ensure their pets will be well-taken care of after they pass. According to CA Probate Code Section 15212, you cannot leave money directly to a pet, but you can use your assets to fund a Pet Trust specifically for their care.

Yes, it’s possible

Setting up a pet trust is a great option if you want to include your cat or dog in your estate plan. A pet trust works in much the same way as a living trust in that you transfer a specific sum of money into the trust for the sole purpose of caring for your pet. All 50 states have put laws in place that recognize pet trusts, although the wording may differ from state to state. 

Like a living trust, you will name a trustee to carry out your wishes after your death. Your wishes can include instructions about your pet’s care like what kind of food to feed your pet, their favorite toys, which veterinarian will take care of their medical needs, and even something specific like how they should be groomed and who should do the grooming.

Careful consideration should be taken when determining the amount of money needed to care for your pet as well as choosing who will take care of your pet when you are no longer able to do so. Appointing someone to care for your pet is just as important as choosing a trustee. You need to choose a future caretaker that you know well, trust to spend the money as per your wishes, and that is more than willing to accept the responsibility of caring for your pet; consider choosing an alternate caretaker as well. 

Getting direction and assistance

Other issues that need to be addressed with a Pet Trust include:

  • Which pets does the trust cover? 
  • What should be done with any money that’s left over after the death of your pet?
  • If necessary, who will go to court to ensure that the trust money is being spent according to your instructions?
  • What happens if you should become incapacitated and can’t take care of your pets before your death?

At The Law Office of David W. Foley, living trust attorney, our family law firm understands how important it is to ensure that your pet continues to get the love and care they depend on when you are no longer able to be there for them.

Our attorneys are experienced when it comes to complex estate planning issues. Our trusts, including a pet trust, are comprehensive and of the highest quality. Contact our office to begin the process.