When hotel heiress and billionaire Leona Helmsley died in 2007, her pet Maltese, Trouble, became the beneficiary of a $12 million pet trust that Helmsley had established as part of her estate plan. Mrs. Helmsley cared very deeply for her animal companion. Although she left money in her will for www.petsblog.org, she failed to secure a legally enforceable pet trust to ensure that her beloved Trouble would be provided for even after her death.
Most pet owners won’t have the resources available to provide for their pets to the extent that Mrs. Helmsley did. In fact, according to Lawyers Weekly USA, the average amount left to pets is closer to $25,000. But, like Mrs. Helmsley, most pet owners are concerned about providing long-term care for their pets, and want to make sure that their wishes are carried out in the event of their death or disability.
As a pet owner in California, you can create a pet trust that will provide for the care of your “beloved pet” when you are no longer able to care for the pet yourself. Pet trusts are more secure than simply leaving money in your will, and provide specific instruction for the caretaker and beneficiary of the trust. To begin planning for the care of your pet, you should identify a family member or friend who you would trust to care for your pet and who would be willing to provide for the animal’s care. A pet trust allows you to designate this trusted person as your pet’s trustee. In California, your trustee will be legally obligated to make arrangements for the proper care of your pet, according to your instruction. They will also hold the money and/or property that you transfer to the trust for the benefit of the pet. In addition to the pet’s trustee, you may also designate a caregiver, or beneficiary, who will be responsible for caring for the pet over the lifespan of the animal.
Because California pet trusts are legally enforceable arrangements, as a pet owner, you can be assured that the instruction you provide regarding your pet’s care will be carried out. A trust can be very specific, so it is important to discuss your pet’s health needs, care, and routine with your designated caregiver. For example, if your cat is allergic to a particular brand of food, or your dog needs to be bathed once a week, this can be specified in the trust agreement.
As a pet owner, you know your pet’s particular habits and needs better than anyone else. With a pet trust, you can describe the kind of care your pet should have, and you can list the trusted people who would be willing to provide that care. If you are a pet owner who wants to establish a pet trust, or otherwise provide long-term care for your pet, a qualified estate planning attorney who has experience creating pet trusts in California will be able to help you understand your pet trust planning options, and will be able to assist you in designing a pet trust that meets your needs and those of your pets.