Estate Planning for your Pets — The Forgotten Child

When it comes to Estate Planning, the often overlooked and neglected member of every family is your pets. A family pet is loved and cared for by the family and treated as a full-fledged member; however, every day, pets are surrendered at local shelters and humane societies when their owners pass away. Most Estate Planning attorneys neglect to account for pets in their questioning and planning, leaving these animals with nowhere to go and no one to care for them. As a result of the attorney’s lack of foresight, it’s unclear who is responsible for a pet after you pass leading to the humane societies being flooding with pets who have just lost their parents.

Pets are essential members of any family. However, you cannot leave property to your pets when you die. So, the question is, how do you ensure that your pets are looked after when you are gone? Under California Probate Code Section 15212, leaving funds is allowed for the benefit of animals. This is what is referred to as an Animal Support Trust.

The Animal Support Trust –

The primary purpose of an Animal Support Trust is to provide your successor trustee with the name and details of whom you have selected as your pet’s caregiver. It is not always clear who would be best to take in the pet. Should it be the oldest child? Youngest? The neighbor? This is an important decision of whom you feel is best suited for providing the best care and love for your pet.

Additionally, you can provide the following types of guidance:

Financial resources — Setting aside a specific amount of cash for the care and any unexpected expenses for your pet.

Detailed Instructions — Outline caregiving instructions that specify any routines or caregiving details such as feeding instructions, vet information, and favorite activities.

Oversight — Provide oversight by the trustee that the caregiver follows the instructions and provides the expected level of care.

Insurance — Identifying insurance policies on the pets and instructions that the caregiver maintains the policy and pay for the premiums out of the Animal Support Trust funds.

End of Life Planning — Instructing for the end of life planning for the pet. Outlining your wishes for burial/cremation and when to end medical treatment are discussed in the Animal Support Trust.

A critical aspect of the Animal Support Trust is the duration of the Trust. Under California Law, the Trust will terminate on the death of the last animal covered by the Trust, unless otherwise detailed in the Trust document.

Consult with an estate planning attorney who is thoughtful and has the foresight to ask the questions regarding your family pets.

About The Law Office of Zachary B. Whitman

Zachary B. Whitman is licensed to practice law in California. Information presented on US laws. This article is legal information and should not be seen as legal advice. The opinions contained herein are those of Zachary B. Whitman and not of any other organization. The information contained herein does not create an attorney-client relationship nor a requirement that Zachary B. Whitman take you on as a client.

Trusts and Estates Attorney — San Diego, CA