Thursday, March 14, 2013

An Orange County Estate Planning Lawyer Explains the Finer Points in Funding a Pet Trust


Nowadays when people speak of loved ones, they do not just mean people; now they also include pets.  Yes, what happens to your pet Spot in the event of your death or mental incapacity?  It is good that in California, there is such a thing as a pet trust.

In fact, the pet trust document need not be a separate document from your other estate planning documents.  If you are already preparing a living will or trust, you may already want to include your pets as beneficiaries.  You have to mention this to your estate planning lawyer in Orange County when you are in the process of making your initial document. 

                A pet trust is executed in anticipation of two eventualities:  your death and your confinement in a shelter where you will be unable to care for your pet. 
One key issue in funding is a stipend for your caretaker. You may also want to stipulate a certain stipend for your caretaker.  This is more to motivate him to take care of your pet, rather than just doing it out of a sense of duty.

                You must be careful in estimating the amount of funds you must set aside for your pet.  Of course, this is not an exact science.  You just have to remember that overly materialistic caretakers may actually petition the court if they believe that your pet is “overfunded.”  To prevent such a scenario when you are no longer around to defend your pet, you may want to be more specific in defining your pet’s diet and medicine requirements.  This can serve as a justification for the amount you provide your pet.  You can also insert a clause in your pet trust that any excess fund should go to a charitable cause – and not to your caretaker or other heirs.  In funding your pet trust, it is important that you work closely with your estate planning lawyer who can point out the key phrases you must insert in the document.  

                If there is the scenario of excess funds for your pet, then there may also be the case of too little funds for them.  If your designated caretaker loves animals, he may simply shoulder the cost of caring for the pet.  That does not always happen though.  

                Another option would be to negotiate with an animal shelter or pet care group that will promise to care for your pet during its natural life.  In exchange for their care, you may pledge a donation to their organization – either as a lump sum amount during your life time or as an ongoing installment during the lifetime of your pet.  You must also specify other terms such as no-euthanasia or adoption of your pet.  Again, you have to specify this in your pet trust.  A pet trust has some fine differences from a living trust.  An experienced Orange County estate planning lawyer may just have the expertise you need when you are considering a trust for your pets.