For some people their pets are part of their family, and in fact, are more like family than some human family members. It is therefore not surprising that some pet owners desire to leave their property to their pets in their wills to ensure the pets are taken care of when the pet owner dies. Unfortunately, that may not be the best way to ensure the pets are taken care of, because under the law, pets are considered property.
Because pets are considered property, they cannot inherit assets directly. Therefore, the best way to leave assets specifically to provide for the care of a pet after an owner’s death is to do it through a Florida pet trust. Florida law allows pet owners to set up trusts to care for animals which are alive during the owner’s lifetime.
Generally, a pet trust operates in the same way as other trusts for human beneficiaries. For example, the pet trust requires assets to be put in the trust, and the assets are managed by a trustee. The trustee distributes the trust assets, or the proceeds from the investment of those assets, as specifically provided in the trust documents.
Pet trusts are supposed to last as long as the named pet beneficiaries are alive. Once the pet dies, the trust terminates. In setting up the trust, the owner can designate a beneficiary to receive the trust assets after the pet dies. If the beneficiary outlives the pet, he gets the trust assets. The secondary beneficiary can be a human being. Because the law requires a pet to be alive during the trust creator’s lifetime in order to be provided for in a trust. Therefore, a pet owner cannot set up a trust for a pet and the pet’s future offspring. The trust can only cover the pet owner’s original pet.
A pet owner may try to leave money in a will to a person with instructions that the person use the funds solely to care for the pet owner’s pet. Unless the beneficiary under the will also loves the pet and chooses to use his bequest to take care of the pet willingly, this kind of provision cannot really be enforceable. So even if the pet owner trusts someone to care for a pet after the pet owner’s death, the best way to make sure the person does so is to name them as trustee of a pet trust.
Contact an Experienced Trust Attorney
If you want to make sure that your pet is well cared for after your death, you can set up a Florida pet trust and leave your assets to the trust. Because other potential heirs may challenge the validity of a pet trust, it is important to make sure that the trust document is legally valid and not easily invalidated in a trust contest. For legal assistance in setting up a pet trust or estate planning in general, contact our experienced estate planning attorneys at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group located in The Villages, Florida.