Pet Trusts in California

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July 19, 2018

Pet Trusts in California

Elderly man playing with his dog while sitting on the street.

Do you have a beloved pet and want to make sure your pet always receives the best care? You may want to consider forming a pet trust.

A pet trust is a legal document that ensures your pet will be cared for if you are incapacitated or pass away. In the document, you name a trustee. The trustee must use any money or property you place in trust for the benefit of your pet. Trustees have fiduciary responsibilities that include investing the money and property prudently. The California Probate Code requires that the trustee only use money or property in trust for the benefit of the pet.

Usually, you also select a caregiver for the pet, who receives money from the trustee to use towards the pet’s care. In the trust document, you can specify the level of care you would like your pet to receive. You can explain your pet’s routines and its likes and dislikes. The trustee should then check with the caregiver to ensure the level of care is met.

You will need to fund your pet trust by placing money or property in trust. For example, you could place a piece of real estate in trust. The trustee could then give the rents from the real estate to the caregiver to cover costs of pet care. The pet trust document can specify how often the caregiver should receive money, in what amount, and for what the caregiver can use the money. Consult with an estate planning attorney to determine how best to fund your pet trust.

Pet trusts can go into effect either during your lifetime or upon your death. If your trust goes into effect during your lifetime, usually you will be the trustee with a successor trustee appointed to take over after you pass away. If your trust goes into effect after your death, there may be a delay in funding the trust while your will is probated. During that delay, your caregiver will have to pay for your pet’s care.

The same delay may result if you choose not to form a pet trust and leave the pet to a relative. If the will has to be probated, your pet may end up without a specified caregiver for a long time. Further, leaving the pet to a relative in your will offers no guarantee that the relative will respect your wishes. In contrast, a pet trust allows you to specify exactly how to care for the pet and its specific needs.

A pet trust ends when all animals benefiting from the trust pass away. At this point, the trustee should distribute any money or property remaining in the trust as listed in the trust document. The document may name a beneficiary who will receive the remaining trust assets.

Do you have a beloved pet you want to protect? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your trust formation needs with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call Angela’s office at (424) 400-2125.

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