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Elder Law Today Newsletter | Vol. 11 | September, 2006


Can I Have a Trust for My Pet? Yes!

Many of our clients are pet lovers who would like to leave something for their pets. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association estimated in a 2000 survey that there are 68 million dogs and 73 million cats in the U.S.

A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime. – Mark Twain, Notebook, 1895. The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s. Mark Twain, in his letter to W.D. Howells, 4/21/1899.

However, we have found that most pets, even the smartest ones, cannot properly handle their own financial affairs. Until recently, it was difficult for our clients to leave money in trust for the benefit of a pet. In the past, courts have invalidated pet trusts because they did not have a human beneficiary, they were thought to be excessive, or were not based on a human life.

Now California, as well as 15 other states, have passed laws allowing pet owners to set up trusts to take care of pets after the owners have died.

California Probate Code § 15212, passed in 1991, states: A trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal may be performed by the trustee for the life of the animal, whether or not there is a beneficiary who can seek enforcement or termination of the trust and whether or not the terms of the trust contemplate a longer duration.

It is reported that in 1993, New Jersey tobacco heiress Doris Duke left $100,000 in trust for the care of her dog Rodeo. Dusty Springfield, in her 1999 will, is reported to leave her cat Nicholas a lifetime supply of imported baby food, which the cat apparently craves. Actress Betty White is reported to be leaving several million dollars to her pets.

Our clients do not leave that much to their pets. However, according to Lawyers Weekly USA, the average amount left to pets is about $25,000.

The pet trust will typically come into existence after the death of the owner, and is usually written into the owner’s trust.

The terms of the pet trust include, but are not limited to: sufficiently identifying the pet; setting the amount of funds available for the caretaker of the pet; designating the trustee and caretakers to take care of the pet; defining the duties and responsibilities of the trustee; providing for distributions by the trustee to the caretaker; defining the standard of care for the pet; disposition of the pet’s remains; designation of remainder beneficiaries for remaining funds after the passing of the pet.

Other Probate & Trust Newsletters

Avoiding Probate in California

A Primer on Probate

Funding Your Revocable Living Trust

Can I Have a Trust for My Pet? Yes!

"My Son In Law is a Big Fat Dummy." Remedy: The Personal Asset Trus

Problems With Typical Revocable Living Trusts and Financial Durable powers of Attorney - And the New 70

Long Term Care Provisions for the Revocable Living Trust and Financial Durable Powers of Attorney for Couples Facing an Diagnosis of Early Dementia

The Revocable Living Trust - Preparing for Incapacity

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