If you were to ask a random sampling of pet owners as to whether they consider their dogs, cats or other creatures with which they share their homes to be part of the family, chances are very good the majority of these pet owners would answer a resounding "yes."
Indeed, most pet owners are guilty of going out of their way to provide for their pets in exchange for their unconditional love and companionship, giving them not just pats on the head, kind words and copious hugs, but also delicious food, good medical care and comfortable beds.
Given the time, money and affection showered on their four-legged friends, you'd naturally think that most pet owners would also have a plan in place to ensure that they were cared for in the event of their sudden incapacity or passing.
In reality, however, most people don't have anything planned outside of a simple promise from a friend or family member that they'll take in their pet should the unimaginable happen. Indeed, many pet owners might think that this honorable vow is their only option.
As it turns out, they actually have a viable estate planning option at their disposal. Indeed, the majority of the states, including California, recognize the creation of what are known as pet trusts.
In a pet trust, the trustor (i.e., the creator of the trust/pet owner) appoints one or more persons to serve as trustee in the event they become incapacitated or die. This trustee is tasked with distributing the trust funds earmarked for the care of the pet to a chosen caretaker and ensuring that these funds are being used properly.
The caretaker, in turn, is tasked with the vitally important task of providing the type of care expressly outlined by the pet owner in the terms of the trust and able to seek the necessary reimbursement from the trustee.
As we'll see in our next post on this subject, while there are many advantages to creating a pet trust, there are also some important considerations for pet owners to keep in mind.
If you would like to learn more about pet trusts or any other estate planning matter, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.