One of the most overlooked parts of estate planning is addressing what will happen to a pet after the owner passes way. Too often, a pet owner dies and the dog or cat who has been a loyal companion for many years ends up in a shelter because no one in the family can take the pet home.
In some cases, they may already have pets and can’t take on another one. Or maybe they have children with allergies, or live in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. It can be an emotionally difficult time for the family because, when you take a pet to a shelter, there’s no guarantee that they will be adopted and, sadly, may have to be euthanized.
For many aging pet owners, the future welfare of their pet or pets was causing a lot of emotional stress at a time when they should be able to simply enjoy their lives. That includes enjoying the company and companionship of a pet who may be the most consistent presence in their lives at that age.
This is why the State of Florida passed Statute 736.0408, allowing for a trust for the care of an animal. This new law recognized that, because people create emotional bonds with their pets, making sure their pets would be able to live out their lives under adequate care would provide a measure of emotional comfort to the pet owner.
Under this law, you can set aside money in a trust specifically for the care of your pet or pets. The caretaker you designate in the trust would be given access to the money upon your passing. As it is a trust, you would also have to name a trustee, whose role is to authorize the disbursement of funds from the trust to the caretaker. It is strongly recommended that the trustee and the caretaker not be the same person.
Typically, these funds would be used to maintain the standard of living you desire for your pet and could be used to purchase food and treats, veterinary care, recreation and toys, grooming, and shelter. You can also provide money so that, if the caretaker has to travel or go on a vacation, your pet can be boarded at a quality facility. In this trust, you can also leave directions for the pet’s healthcare and dietary needs, as well as exercise and recreational needs. If you have multiple pets, you can even use the trust to keep the pets living together.
The trust stays in effect for the rest of your pet’s lifetime, so it’s important to make sure you are putting enough money in the trust to cover all those expenses. After the pet dies, any remaining money can go to the beneficiaries you designate. Many of these trusts instruct the trustee to donate remaining funds to a non-profit organization involved in an issue the pet owner cares deeply about or to a charity that addresses the needs of animals.
If you have a pet and you’d like to make sure he or she is well cared for after you pass, contact Nexus Legal Solutions at 407-900-7722 and ask about creating a pet trust.