If during the estate planning process the wellbeing of your furry, four-legged family member is in the forefront of your mind, a pet trust could be your best option. These trusts can provide the peace of mind that the care and costs for Fido are squared away in the event that you are no longer there to provide for his needs.
California is one of a group of states that allows pet owners to create a trust for the costs and care of their pet animals. This law allows a pet owner to plan for the continued care of their animal family members in the event that the pet owner becomes unable to do so. If you are concerned about the future costs and care for your pet, setting up a pet trust, pursuant to California’s pet trust statute provides a way for you to legally leave your pet money in trust and plan for your pet’s care during the remaining life of your pet.
Famous Pet Trusts
Pet trusts often make the news. Oprah Winfrey is said to have left $30 million for the care of all of her beloved animals after her own passing. In 2011, Maria Assunta left $13 million to her beloved feline friend, Tomasso, whom she rescued from the streets. And in 2007, Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, and also directed that the rest of her trust, valued in the billions, should be put towards the general welfare of dogs.
Not Without Controversy
In some circumstances, however, creating a pet trust can come with controversy. Even Leona Helmsley’s estate was contentious and fraught with litigation. According to an article in the Washington Times, only $1 million of Helmsley’s estate actually ended up going to animal related charities, with the remainder of her estate directed towards other non-profit efforts. Having a pet inherit money can lead to dissension in the family, particularly when the pet’s trust comes as a surprise to other family members. In these unfavorable economic times, family members have been more engaged in will contests, and the legal battle is heightened where there is a pet trust involved. Any type of litigation can be expensive and stressful for a family to endure, and the whole goal of estate planning is to avoid such fights.
If you are thinking of creating a pet trust you should also consider discussing your wishes regarding your pet’s care and the costs of care with family. Communication is helpful in diffusing later confusion, anger, or potential problems with your pet trust. By explaining your wishes openly with family they will be well informed about your pet trust plan and intentions for the future. For help in creating a pet trust, or assistance with any other estate planning matters in San Diego, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at the Law Office of Scott Soady.