Pet Trust Ensures Continued Care
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” sums up the way millions of Americans feel about their dogs (or cat, fish, snake, bird, or other beloved non-human companions). Pet ownership figures in America are staggering – at least two thirds of American households own a pet. And, the majority of those American pet-owning homes consider their pets part of the family. They treat them just as well, and sometimes better, than their own children. I mean, admit it, your dog can get away with being “cute” after ruining your new shoes. Your kid… not so much.
Until recently, Californians had no way to ensure their pets were cared for upon their death or incapacity because estate plans, specifically created for the benefit of pets, were considered “honorary.” Meaning, they were not enforceable. Even if a person properly set-up a pet trust to care for their non-human companion, the trustee (person in charge of carrying out the terms of their trust ) could (and often times did) take the trust money and run, literally leaving “Fido” out in the cold. In fact, according to a local nonprofit animal rescue agency, 2nd Chance for Pets, roughly 500,000 pets get euthanized every year on the death or incapacity of their owners.
The historical abuse by trustees coupled with Californians love-affair with their pets (dogs outnumber kids in San Francisco), led to an expansion of the Probate Code 15212 on January 1, 2009. It recognizes the special relationship and human-pet bond through a “Pet Trust.”
Now, you can create a Pet Trust to protect your pet(s) if you die or become incapacitated. A pet trust allows you the flexibility to design and tailor the trust for your pets’ needs, including the amount of food, exercise, love and any other creature-comfort the pet-owner desires for their beloved animal.
Wills, Pets & Probate
If you only leave a will (rather than a comprehensive estate plan), you haven’t created a pet trust. Your pet(s), like your other beneficiaries (children, parents, other) are subject to probate where a court will have to sort out what to do with your estate.
Probate is very costly and time-consuming process (8 months to several years) that determines how a person’s estate is to be distributed, during which time your pet may not be provided for. This, of course, is a huge problem for our furry friends. By creating a pet trust in the estate planning process, you’ll make sure your pet companion is cared for in the way you wish upon your death or incapacity.