Pet Trusts: Financial Planning for Your Furry Family Members

When we discuss estate planning, we often talk about the importance of making a plan to provide for the care and financial stability of your loved ones after you die. But what if you have loved ones who are not human? What will happen to your furry family members when you are gone or no longer able to care for them due to incapacitation?

Few people actually think about what would happen to their pets if they died unexpectedly, but the fact is, if you don’t make plans for the care of your pets, they could end up just about anywhere, including possibly being euthanized if they end up at a kill shelter.

If you view your pet as a member of the family, don’t you owe it to them to ensure that they are loved and cared for if you are ever unable to do so? Fortunately, most states, including Florida, have legal provisions that allow for the creation of “pet trusts.”

As with a traditional trust, a pet trust is a legal arrangement that dictates that certain assets, whether they be cash or securities or some other type of funds, will be held in trust by a named trustee for the benefit and care of one or more beneficiaries (in this case, your pets) should the grantor of the trust become disabled or pass away. A pet trust can go into effect during your life or after you die.

Not only can the beneficiaries of the trust include one or more specific pets you name, but you could also leave the trust to a class of pets, such as any pets you own at the time of your death.

Through the pet trust, you may also designate a caregiver who will be charged with caring and providing for your pets. The trustee will administer the trust, ensure that your designated caregiver receives regular payments from the trust, and ensure that they use the funds in accordance with your wishes.

The assets you place in a pet trust may only be used for the benefit and care of your pets, and you will have complete and very specific control over how your pet will be cared for. You can make provisions for just about anything, including but not limited to, the type of food the pet should be given, how often it should visit the vet, and what type of end-of-life care you would like the pet to receive.

While some states stipulate that a pet trust can only last for a certain maximum number of years, there are numerous types of pets and service animals that live longer lives, such as horses. Fortunately, Florida allows a pet trust to last for the entire length of the pet’s life. If your pet trust provides for more than one pet, then the trust can last until the last of the beneficiary pets passes away.

You can choose to name a successor trustee and a successor caregiver in case your pets outlive your original designated trustee or caregiver, and you should also name a remainder beneficiary who will be granted access to the funds in the trust should any remain after the beneficiary pet(s) passes away.

Since pet trusts fall under trust law, you will want to work with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer in order to set up a trust for your pets. It is a good idea to provide clear identification of your pet, such as photographs and perhaps even a DNA sample, to help prevent fraud. You will also need to detail the pet’s current standard of living, determine how much money will be required to provide for the care necessary to maintain your pet’s standard of living through the duration of its life, decide how you want to fund the trust, and specify how you would like the funds to be distributed.

Your trustee may be required to conduct regular inspections to ensure that the caregiver remains in compliance with all of the trust’s provisions.

Pet trusts can provide you with peace of mind that your furry friends will continue to receive the love and care they’ve grown accustomed to when you are gone. To learn more about pet trusts or to get started protecting your pets’ future, please contact the Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., today.

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.