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Pet Trust Primer

Your love for your pet is unmatched. But what if you weren't there to care for him or her?
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Plan for and protect the future of your loved ones.
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Plan and protect your loved ones' future.

If you have a beloved pet, you may be wondering how to make sure he or she will be cared for in the event of your death. Pet trusts allow you to set aside money and provide instructions for your furbaby's care.

An Orange County attorney can help you set up a trust that will keep your pet safe and happy for the rest of its life. 

What is a Pet Trust?

Pet trusts serve the same basic function as any other trust. They are designed to hold money specifically designated for pet care—which includes horses, cats, lizards, and any other animal in your care.

Since pets can't take of themselves, though, you'll need to find a caretaker who can use the money to handle all their daily needs—he will be able to take money from the trust to take care of your furbabies. In addition, pet care includes feeding, grooming, walking, and everything else that keeps them happy and healthy. 

Pet trusts can be designed to go into effect either when you die or when you are unable to care for the pets yourselves. If you have an accident or are unconscious, your trust may go into effect so your pets will enjoy the same standard of care that they are used to. 

How Can You Create a Pet Trust?

Just like any other trust, pet trusts must be carefully drafted by a lawyer to explicitly communicate your intentions and goals. These can be made as part of a will, a stand-alone trust, or as part of a larger trust.

They can also be testamentary, meaning they come into effect when you pass away, or they can be living trusts. Creating a pet trust requires a bit of planning, and a legal professional can guide you through it.

Here are the basic features required in any pet trust:

The Amount of Money

One of the most important features of any trust is the amount of money put into it. When you create a trust, it's a good idea to calculate the average expenses your pet needs every year.

That might include food, veterinarian visits, dog walking services, bedding, and more. That provides a good starting point, and you can add extra money for any emergencies.

The right amount of money will depend on the type of pet, how many years it is expected to live, and the type of care it needs. 

Which Pets are Covered

Your trust should also designate which pets are covered by the trust. It's important to be specific, or else a pet could get left out. You can include any animals that are in your care while you're alive, but you can't include future generations of pets—the trust ends when the last animal covered by it crosses the rainbow bridge. 

At that point, any leftover money will go to the designated beneficiary. That's why it's important to make arrangements for any leftover funds, such as giving them to a loved one or a favorite charity.

Finding a Caretaker

Pet trust laws require you to have a caretaker in mind. Since pets can't take care of themselves, you'll need to find a reliable person to step in—someone to give the same love you can.

Finding a caretaker is one of the most important parts of creating a pet trust. This person will be responsible for all your pet's care, and they'll have access to the trust money. It's a good idea to discuss this responsibility with a trusted Orange County attorney before choosing someone. You might want to choose someone who has experience as a pet owner. 

Once you have a caretaker in mind, you can also put down an alternate in the trust terms, in case the first choice can't carry out the task for any reason. 

Leaving Pet Care Instructions

It's likely that your pets have personal preferences and are used to a certain kind of lifestyle. In your trust, you can leave behind clear instructions for everything about your pet's care. That might include food types, grooming, and even where your pet sleeps.

Clear, thorough instructions will make it easy for the caretaker to maintain your pet's health and happiness. 

You may also want to have a legal representative who can enforce the terms of the trust. This will ensure that the caretaker is using the money as you intended. Your representative might ask to see receipts or visit the pet in person to see how it's doing.

Beneficiaries for Any Leftover Money

You'll probably set aside a comfortable amount of money in your pet trust, and there's a chance that it might not all be needed to care for your pets.

Legal experts recommend adding a remainder beneficiary so you know exactly where your money will go. You might choose family members, ASPCA, or someone else. 

Protect Your Pets By Setting Up a Trust

Estate planning professionals can help you make essential plans for your pets. If your pets are part of the family, you can make sure they enjoy a long, comfortable life even after you pass away. 

At Parker Law Office, we pride ourselves on working closely with clients to help them plan ahead for every aspect of life. If your pets are an important part of your life, we can make sure they are included.

Frequently Asked Questions on Pet Trusts

What is a pet trust?

Pet trusts are a formal, legal arrangement that enables you to pay for the upkeep and proper care of your furbabies if you are no longer alive. A pet trust's grantor is the person who establishes it, while its trustee is the person who oversees it.

This kind of trust fund is capable of holding resources, typically in the form of cash—that the trustee can utilize to cover the cost of caring for your pet animals for which the trust was created. Additionally, you as the pet owner may provide detailed guidelines regarding how each of your pet's care should be handled by a designated caregiver.

Let's take the example of setting up a pet trust for your cats and dogs. You can offer your selected caretaker instructions on what type of food you like for them to consume, whose veterinarian should be in charge of looking after their health, and how they ought to be groomed.

How does a pet trust agreement work?

Making a living trust for human beneficiaries is quite similar to setting up a trust for pets, which is recognized by law in all 50 states, however, the exact wording may differ.

For instance, Alaskan law clearly states that authorized domestic or pet animals are eligible for pet trusts. Other states' pet trust laws, including those in Arizona and California, solely refer to the term animals in their pet trust statutes.

States may also differ on the end date by Alabama, a pet trust established in accordance with the statute terminates upon the passing of the final animal protected by the trust. According to Alaskan state law, a trust terminates when there are no surviving animals protected by it or after 21 years, whichever comes first.

You have complete control over the terms and funding of a pet trust when you create one. Its provisions should consider your pet's life expectancy as well as the anticipated expense of veterinary care.

You must also think about what should happen to any extra funds that remain in the trust after your pet passes away—consider whether any of the trust terms would change if you become incapacitated rather than dying, such as whether you would want them to see you if it was possible.

How much does it cost to create an Orange County pet trust?

When determining how much money to give to your pet trust, you should take numerous considerations into account. These considerations include the kind of animal, its lifespan, the style of living you want to give it, the need for potentially pricey medical care, and whether or not the trustee will be compensated for his or her services.
When the animal's caretaker is on vacation, out of town on business, receiving treatment in a hospital, or otherwise temporarily unable to provide personal care for the animal—adequate funds should also be included to ensure that the animal is given the proper care, whether it be by a pet-sitter or a professional boarding facility.
If you give your Orange County pet trust an excessively large sum of money or other assets, your heirs and beneficiaries may challenge it, therefore you should avoid doing so. If there is an excessive amount of property left to the trust, the court may reduce the amount to what it deems to be an appropriate amount.

How do you create a trust for your pet animals?

Giving your pet enough money or other assets to a trustee, who is obligated to make arrangements legally for your pet's good care in accordance with your instructions, is necessary to establish a pet trust.
Your pet trust will also name a pet caregiver who will actually take custody of the animal and spend the funds you put into the trust to cover the animal's costs in addition to a trustee.
One person may serve as both the trustee and the caretaker. If possible, you should designate two or three backup caregivers in case your first pick is unable or unable to take care of your pet.
As a last resort, you might want to explore a sanctuary or no-kill shelter to prevent your pet from ending up homeless.
On the other hand, a trust protector, who will uphold the conditions of the trust, may also be named. The court may appoint one if you fail to do so. Additionally, anyone with a stake in the animal's welfare may ask the court to name a trustee or remove one who has already been chosen.
A living trust, which is the preferred option, can be established while the owner is still alive. Alternatively, a testamentary trust, which can be established after the owner has passed away, can be established by incorporating the trust's terms in the will.
When using a living trust, you can either create a separate pet trust or add provisions to a larger living trust created as part of your estate planning.
With a living trust, there is no waiting period before the property can be used for our furbaby's care after your passing. For dogs and cats, pet trusts are quite uncommon, but for horses and other exotic birds, which have longer lifespans, pet trusts, or animal trusts, are fairly popular.

Is an animal trust for you and your pet?

In some circumstances, like the following, setting up a pet trust could make sense.
You wish to continue taking care of one or more pets in case they survive you.
You're anxious that if you get sick or injured, you won't be able to take care of your dogs.
Your pets need specific medical attention or care.
You don't want taking care of your dogs to put a financial strain on your family or friends.
A pet and money to help with the animal's upkeep might both be bequeathed to someone in your will. Without a pet trust, you're relying on the caregiver to care for your pet as you would like it to be treated.
An Orange County pet trust might provide you some peace of mind if you are concerned that your selected caregiver won't do what you desire or what your pet requires. For instance, if the caregiver is not taking care of your pet in accordance with your intentions, you could grant your trustee the power to replace them.
Think about how a pet trust will fit into your overall retirement and estate planning approach before making a decision. Before setting up a trust for a pet, it may be beneficial to speak with your financial advisor or a tax expert because doing so may have estate tax ramifications.
You might also think about writing your pet a living will that outlines the kind of care they should have in an emergency or at the end of their lives.

Why should you create a trust for your beloved pets?

Pet owners can rest comfortably, knowing that their instructions regarding their companion animal will be followed because the majority of trusts are legally binding agreements.
A trust may contain many specifics and can specify things like your dog's preference for daily walks in the park or your cat's preference for a specific brand of food. This can also be covered if you want your pet to go to the vet four times a year.
In the event that a pet owner becomes unable, instructions for the care of the animal can be provided through a trust that goes into effect while the pet owner is still alive, sick, injured, comatose, etc.
You can define the type of care your pets should receive and list the person/s who would be willing to offer that care because they are the only people who truly understand the unique behaviors of your companion animals.

Is there an alternative to pet trust in Orange County, CA?

Under California law, you have an alternative to the conventional pet trust. Choose a family member or friend that you can trust to take care of the animal. In your will, you can specify a sum of money for the pet.

Make sure your family or friend agrees to take care of your pet before you give them any money as you won't be around to make sure it's taken care of. If the recipient declines, the funds are sent to an animal welfare group or no-kill shelter as the residual beneficiary.

Additionally, give that group some cash so that it can use it to visit your pet at random times to ensure that it has a happy home.

What are the essential factors to include in my pet trust?

The life expectancy of your pet and the risk that they could develop a significant health condition should be taken into account when creating a pet trust. This will enable you to estimate the financial requirements of the pet caretaker.

The following are a few essential factors you might want to include in your pet trust:

-Food and diet
-Daily habits
-Toys
-Crates
-Grooming
-Day care
-Socialization
-Veterinarian for medical maintenance or treatment
-Compensation for the caregiver, if any
-The procedure the caretaker must follow to record expenses for reimbursement
-Whether the liability insurance will be paid for by the trust in the event that the animal hurts or bites someone
-How the trustee will evaluate the caretaker's performance
-How to identify your pet
-Disposition of your pet's remains, including burial, cremation, memorialization, etc.

You may also consider whether you want the pet to continue enjoying the same standard of living that they did while you were alive and whether this is realistic given your other estate planning objectives.

You might wish to make it a condition that the pet's caregiver periodically updates the trustee on the animal's health.

Who should I assign as my pet's trustee?

Typically, the trustee is either a trusted firm, a family member or another person you can rely on to manage your property wisely and ensure the beneficiary is taking good care of your fur baby.
It's possible that a friend or family member will take on these duties for free or at very little cost. Even if a trustee fee must be paid, it might be preferable to choose a qualified one with experience managing trusts.
If you do want to appoint a trustee, you should also designate at least one, ideally two or three backup candidates in case your initial choice is unable or unable to serve.
To make sure the person you name as your trustee will be willing to do the job when the time comes, you should probably check with him in advance.
On the other hand, you should look for a charitable organization whose purpose it is to care for or place companion animals in acceptable homes if no friend or relative can be located to take the animal.
If a request for the animal is accompanied by a financial gift to cover costs, a humane society or shelter may be more ready to accept the animal.

What happens to the trust fund after my pet passes on?

Typically, the trustee is either a trusted firm, a family member or another person you can rely on to manage your property wisely and ensure the beneficiary is taking good care of your fur baby.
It's possible that a friend or family member will take on these duties for free or at very little cost. Even if a trustee fee must be paid, it might be preferable to choose a qualified one with experience managing trusts.
If you do want to appoint a trustee, you should also designate at least one, ideally two or three backup candidates in case your initial choice is unable or unable to serve.
To make sure the person you name as your trustee will be willing to do the job when the time comes, you should probably check with him in advance.
On the other hand, you should look for a charitable organization whose purpose it is to care for or place companion animals in acceptable homes if no friend or relative can be located to take the animal.
If a request for the animal is accompanied by a financial gift to cover costs, a humane society or shelter may be more ready to accept the animal.

Why should you update your pet's trust?

The rule of thumb is that you should revise your will every few years following any significant life events, such as getting married or having a child. You can add your new pets and choose new pet guardians when you update your will.
Updating your will is not always simple. Any pets you specifically identify as well as any more pets you possess but didn't name will both be covered by the provision our team includes. In this manner, the caretaker you select will receive all of your new pets.
At Parker Law Offices, we understand that your furbaby is a part of your family and your life, the main reason we will ensure that your pet trust will stand in court if ever it is challenged. In addition, we know the value of giving your furry companion the life he deserves even after you pass.

To request an appointment with our legal professional for your pet trusts needs, fill out our online form or contact us at (949) 867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

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