Your Pet and Who You Trust?

If you are a dog or cat owner you already know that one of our most important loved ones are often our pets. In fact, I’m one of those crazy dog people who have a sign in my house that says “my dog lets me live here.”

All kidding aside, Jennifer N. Sawday of TLD Law shared with me critical new information on setting up a pet living trust. With her permission, I’ve passed it on to you.

Now California Probate Code Section 15212 allows for the creation of a pet trust for animal care. They are often included in the pet owner’s existing revocable living trust.

The revocable living trust may be drafted to provide for pets to include preferred caretakers for the pets, who can rehome the pets or where the pets should go and also provide money for the pets’ continued care such as food and veterinary expenses. A pet trust provision included within a revocable living trust offers legal protection for the sum of money that the pet owner may desire to leave for their pet’s care until the pets themselves pass away. This is basically conferring legal rights for the pets to use this money set aside for them.

Below is some language to give you an idea of how a pet trust is created and how it can work.

The sum of ten thousand dollars (or any amount you choose) for the settlor’s pets, which shall be held, administered, and distributed by the trustee, in trust, according to the terms set forth below apply to the Trust for PETS.

Trust for PETS

The trustee shall hold, administer, and distribute the assets of the Trust for PETS as follows:

Beneficiaries: This trust is created for the benefit of the settlor’s pets. The primary purpose of this trust is to provide a care fund to be made available to the settlor’s pets during their lifetime.

Discretionary Payments: At any time or times during the trust term, the trustee shall pay to or apply for the benefit of the beneficiary as much of the principal of the trust as the trustee deems proper for the health, support, and maintenance of the settlor’s pets. All decisions of the trustee regarding payments under this subsection, if any, are within the trustee’s discretion and shall be final and incontestable by anyone.

Final Disposition: If the trust property is not completely disposed of for use for the settlor’s pets and all of the settlor’s pets have died, then the trustee shall distribute the remainder to your choice of persons or charities.

Another alternative would be to insert a provision like this one in your Living Trust which provides a cash gift treated as a pet trust:

Special Cash Gift and Dog(s). On the settlor’s death, the trustee shall gift the settlor’s dog(s) and distribute one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) to YOUR FAVORITE DOG PERSON, as designated caretaker, which shall be expended for the care of the settlor’s dog(s) during their remaining lifetime; provided, however, that this gift shall lapse if the settlor’s dog(s) are not living at the time of distribution according to this provision or if the designated caretaker does not undertake to use the funds gifted herein for the care of the settlor’s pet as allowed by California Probate Code Section 15212. If YOUR FAVORITE DOG PERSON is or becomes unable to serve as the designated caretaker, then YOUR SECOND FAVORITE DOG PERSON shall serve in her place.

Make sure you follow Jennifer ’s advise (jsawday@tldlaw.com) and GET IT DONE. Just imagine how much more complex the sale of Real Property will be when there’s a beloved pet who’s going to be displaced while family members work out the details with their attorney.

If you have questions or wish to learn more about the sale of Real Property during probate or death of the settlor who owns the trust, please contact Jerry@probatetrustproperties.