“The righteous care for the needs of their animals…” ~ Proverbs 12:10
The average estate plans include lots of details about what will happen when people pass away or become incapacitated. Property, bank accounts, business interests and children are all at the top of the list of concerns when we sit down with our clients. Sadly, people often forget about a very important member or members of their family – their pets.
For nearly 20 years, Florida has allowed for people to setup Pet Trusts that provide provisions for the caring of their animal (or animals) after they pass away or if they become incapacitated. The following article includes the provisions, further reasons to consider regarding including a pet trust in your estate plan, as well as tips on who to select for your caregiver.
Florida Pet Trust Provisions
The State of Florida since 2002 has permitted Florida residents to create a trust for the care and maintenance of their beloved animal(s) that is enforceable by the Florida courts. There are 3 main provisions listed in Florida Statute §736.0408 regarding a Trust for the care of an animal:
- A Pet Trust is designed to benefit an animal that is alive during the lifetime of the one creating the Pet Trust. The Pet Trust exists until the last surviving animal beneficiary passes away.
- The Pet Trust terms are enforced by a person that the creator of the trust appoints to enforce the terms. If no one is appointed by the creator, then the Florida Courts will appoint someone. Anyone with an interest in the welfare of the animal(s) may request the court to remove a person appointed or request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust.
- The Pet Trust can include property that is needed to care for the animal(s). The Florida courts will assess if the trust property exceeds the value required for the intended use. Any property not required for the intended use will be distributed to the one creating the Pet Trust, if living, or if after the creator passes, it will be distributed as part of their estate.
Reasons to Include a Pet Trust in Your Estate Plan
Many people hope or assume that a will is enough to ensure that their animals are properly cared for after they pass away. They think that a family member or friend will have no problems caring for their animal(s), but when it comes to estate plans, it is best to not leave things to chance, especially when those things include living creatures. What if the animal gets sick? What if your family member or friend gets sick or loses their job? A Pet Trust will ensure that the unknown and unexpected are considered. By creating your Pet Trust now, you can begin to fund your pet trust while you are living. You can also have the Pet Trust begin when you pass.
Selecting a Caregiver for Your Animals
It is important to select the right person to care for your animal(s) health, maintenance and financial needs. You will want to choose someone that understands the needs of your animal and would love and care for your animal in a way that honors your wishes. There could be a conflict if you choose the trustee as the caregiver of your animal(s), so you may want to consider someone else to be the caregiver.
Get Started on Your Pet Trust
Estate Planning Attorney Lisa DiFranza is experienced at Pet Trusts and the provisions offered by the State of Florida. If you have questions about setting up a pet trust or your estate plan, click here to schedule a consultation.