What is a Pet Trust?

Pets are an integral part of the lives of many individuals and families.  Many individuals worry about the care of their pet if their pet outlives them.  One way to plan is to use a pet trust.  A pet trust is a provision in your will or living trust which sets forth specific instructions regarding the care of your animal.  In 2008, the probate code was amended which added California Probate Code section 15212.  This code section includes specific provisions regarding pet trust planning.  First, an individual can be named who is the designated caregiver for your animal.  Also, a provision should be included which states that this will apply to any and all future animals that you own.  You may also want to include alternate caregivers, in the event that the named caregiver cannot care for your animal.  Second, the trustee is instructed to provide funds for the care of your animal.  Oftentimes, clients will name a family member or friend who has agreed to take in the animal after the owner’s death.  Provisions could be made for any type of animal; however, if it is an animal that requires expensive maintenance or has a long life span, you may want to include additional funds. 

Some clients do not have a family member or friend who will be willing to take care of their animal.  One alternative is to enroll in the San Francisco SPCA Sido program.  It is called the Sido program after a 1979 case in California.  In this case, a testator had stated that his dog was to be euthanized after his death.  Legislation was passed which stated that an animal will not be destroyed pursuant to provisions in a will.  An individual can enroll in the program by naming the San Francisco SPCA as a beneficiary in their will or trust and by providing an annual gift to the adoption center.  If you are enrolled in this program and predecease your pet, then the San Francisco SPCA will find a suitable home for your dog or cat.

Finally, it is important to keep good records concerning your pets.  It is a good idea to keep up-to-date information about your animal’s medication and vaccination schedule.  Additionally, it is advisable to keep all of this information in a file along with any other information that will assist the caregiver to continue the same level of care.

Animals are such an important part of many peoples’ lives and should not be forgotten when you are completing your estate planning documents.  With a little planning, you will have peace of mind that your furry friend will be well taken care of, in the event that you are unable to care for your pet.

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