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Should Estate Planning Be a Pet Project?


Having a pet can be a fulfilling and loving relationship for people all across Los Angeles. Whether that pet is a dog, cat, parakeet, or some other animal, it is likely an important part of the family. However, in terms of the law, these companions are not considered to be family members; they are considered property. And that can make it very difficult to make sure a pet is taken care of after an owner has passed away.

That is why pet owners across California may want to consider taking steps to provide care for their beloved friend in the form of a trust. As many people may already realize, trusts can be important parts of an estate plan. But you may not realize that there is a type of trust that can specifically address the needs of a pet.

Pet trusts can be very effective ways of setting aside resources for the care of a pet. Because money cannot be passed directly to pets, as they are considered property, setting up a trust can be a way for owners to designate funds that can be spent on a pet and provide specific instructions to the trustee, who will be responsible for making sure a pet owner’s wishes are carried out properly.

Successful pet trusts are set up properly and maintained by a willing and capable trustee, who could also be named the caretaker of the pet. When an effective pet trust is in place, the physical and financial needs of an animal can continue to be met even after an owner is no longer able to provide care.

In 2012, pets were part of nearly 70 percent of households across the country and many of these pet owners may have questions about setting up a trust, identifying a trustee, and determining how much money should be set aside for their pet. Working through this process with an attorney can be a good way of making sure that both the pet owner and the parties named in a trust understand how the care of a pet will be protected after an owner is no longer able to provide it.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills,” Anne Tergesen, Jan. 12, 2014

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