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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Including Your Pet In Your Estate Plan

Can I leave money to my pet in my will?

Over half of all American households own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.  For pet owners, pets comprise an integral part of the family. As members of the family, many of us want to ensure our pets are cared for after our death.  Including your pet in your estate plan can be a complicated matter, as in most states it is not an option to simply will assets to your pet. With the help of an experienced California estate planning attorney, you can rest assured that your pet will be well cared for in the event of your death.

Pet Trusts

Under California law, as in most states, pets are considered property and accordingly your pet cannot inherit your assets by will or through the laws of intestacy.  In the past, trusts designed to benefit a pet were not enforced because they lacked a human beneficiary. The California legislature changed all of that in 1991 by amending the Probate Code. Now, Probate Code Section 15212 allows a pet owner in California to place funds in trust to provide for the care of a pet for its lifetime.  

Creating a trust for the benefit of your pet is a wonderful way to ensure that an individual you trust will care for your pet for the remainder of its life, in the same manner, you would. To make such a trust, you will want to start by calculating the number of resources that the pet will need for the rest of its life. Take the age and type of pet into your calculations. Provide funds for veterinary care, food, boarding as needed, and the like.

You will then want to select a person who will care for your pet in the event of your death. This is perhaps the most important aspect of your trust. You should talk to the potential caretaker in advance and obtain his or her consent.  You should also name an alternate caretaker.

You can then place the funds in trust to be distributed by the named trustee to the pet’s caretaker.  Alternatively, you could will the assets to the caregiver for the care of the pet. However, this method leaves no guarantee that the funds are actually used for the pet. Contact your estate planning lawyer for more assistance with caring for your pet after your death.


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