It’s crazy, but your beloved pet is considered property under the law! Don’t worry – you can still provide for the lifelong care of your pet should you not be able to.
Florida law allows loving pet owners, through the use of a Pet Trust, to leave behind money, assets, and specific directions for the care and maintenance of a pet during the owner’s incapacity and after the owner’s death. A Pet Trust is permitted for most any kind of household animal pet, and even includes horses.
How a Pet Trust Works
A Pet Trust can be incorporated into the owner’s living trust documents or designed as a stand-alone trust. Moreover, a Pet Trust can provide for one or multiple pets; however, it is generally advisable to design a Pet Trust for each pet to avoid any conflict or confusion. Either way, your beloved furry family member will be cared for and protected in the event you are unable to do so.
A Pet Trust is generally set up as follows – there is a grantor (the pet owner who creates the trust), an initial caregiver and trustee (usually, the pet owner during their lifetime), successor caregivers (those who provide the care to and maintenance of the pet after the owner’s incapacity or death), successor trustees (those who will administer trust assets and distribute them to the successor caregiver after the owner’s incapacity or death), and the beneficiary (the pet!).
What to Include in a Pet Trust
As a pet owner, when designing a Pet Trust, it is always a good idea to make the terms of your trust as specific as possible, including, but not limited to: your pet’s name; the current standard of living and care of your pet; the names, addresses and contact information of successor caregivers and trustees; the level of care you want your pet to receive when you’re gone; an estimate of care-related expenses after you’re gone; and burial instructions.
Additionally, it is very important to include terms that specify what will happen to any remaining money and assets in the trust once your pet passes away – because you don't want any leftover funds to go to waste. A few options include splitting up the funds among your human descendants or donate it to charity.
As with any other legal document, using a DIY or pre-printed Pet Trust is risky and you should always consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your specific goals and all legal requirements are met.
If you are interested in learning more about planning for the care and maintenance of your beloved pet after you're gone, please contact me today!