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Law Office of Rodney Gould July 10, 2020

Estate planning helps Californians protect their most valued assets, their family and even their pets. For many people, pets are as special as anyone else in their family.

If you’re worried about what will happen to your pet if you unexpectedly pass away, become disabled, or ill, estate planning can help you take care of your animal companions.

Pet trusts are the most common way to take care of your pets. They function similarly to a trust you might set up for your child or a spouse. Pet trusts allow you to control the following:

  • Name a caregiver – This will be the person who will shelter your pet and provide for them.

  • Name a trustee – A trustee will manage the details of your trust and ensure the caregiver is following your wishes. The trustee will also have access to the funds you leave in the trust to care for your pet. Having a separate caregiver and trustee can ensure that your trust is being used properly.

  • Outline the details of your pet’s care – You should include information about the type of food your pet can or cannot eat, the places your pet likes to visit on walks, or the toys that they prefer to play with. You should name their veterinary doctors, how frequently your pet has routine check-ups, and any other expectations you have that your caregiver should follow when looking after your pet.

  • Estimated expenses – Caring for a pet can be costly, and it’s useful to provide an estimate for how much your caregiver may need to spend, even if you are providing money through the trust.

  • Managing leftover funds – You should also explain what your trustee should do with any funds leftover if your pet dies. You can have the remaining money sent to a beneficiary in your will or donated to a shelter, charity, or other organization.

In California, pet trusts last for the length of your pet’s life, so you don’t have to worry about the trust terminating unexpectedly. If your pet’s life expectancy is incredibly long, you may also want to name successor caregivers and trustees to ensure the trust continues as intended. You also can establish a pet trust for multiple pets if you have more than one and detail the care necessary for each pet.

Your pet deserves to have a comfortable life. By establishing a pet trust early, you can have peace of mind that they’ll continue to live on even after you pass.