Pet Trusts

Within the past few years, the pet population in California has skyrocketed. Currently, almost 53% of California households have at least one pet. All loving and concerned pet owners may wonder how to protect their furry family members in the event of their death. In California, a pet cannot receive a gift in a living trust without some special steps. Therefore, creating a different estate plan for your pet is necessary.

California law was first changed in 1991 and later clarified and amended in 2008 to allow pet owners peace of mind regarding caring for their furry family members after they pass. The change allowed attorneys to help their clients write what is known as a pet trust. Pet trusts can help care for the furry family members for the remainder of the pet’s lifetime.

California Pet Trust Estate Planning Attorneys

Many people are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they are no longer around to care for them. At Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd., our lawyers can help you build an estate plan that takes care of your whole family, including your pets. With over 60 years of experience in estate planning, we can guide you through the process.

You can set up your first consultation with a California estate planning attorney by calling our number at (877) 585-1885. Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. has offices in VenturaWestlake VillageSanta Barbara, ValenciaBakersfield, and San Luis Obispo, California.


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What Is A Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a trust written to provide for the care of a pet or other domestic animals upon the owner’s disability or passing. It is common for pet lovers and caretakers alike to want a pet trust to guarantee their pet is taken care of to their standards after death. In California (as well as other states), it has been decided by the courts that a pet is considered personal property and, therefore, cannot legally own other property, such as money.

When pet owners have left money for their pet to be cared for by someone else in another estate planning instrument, such as a living trust or will, that gift can be challenged. Unfortunately, due to this challenge, some terms and conditions are often ruled invalid. Therefore, the well-meaning pet owner who attempted to plan for their furry friend failed, and their furry friend will be placed wherever the court or family feels is best.

A pet trust allows pet owners to specify care for their furry family members right down to the type of food they eat, the parks they like to go to, and how often and to which vet they should see. This type of trust also allows the pet owners to leave money for the care of their pets. By enacting this statute in 1991, the California legislature allowed the creation of pet trusts that function according to people’s wishes.


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How Does A Pet Trust Work?

A pet trust allows a pet owner to set aside money to care for a pet. This money could be dispersed in one large sum or specific disbursements after the pet owner passes away. This money is then used for the care of the animals specified in the trust. The money can be used for everyday things like food, toys, and veterinary care, as well as paying the individuals to care for the pets and providing them with whatever the trustee (individual in charge of the trust) deems necessary for the care of the pets.

These trusts can cover one or multiple pets. As long as all of the pets are named in the trust, the trust will continue for the lifetime of the named pets or 21 years, whichever is shorter. This is important to note for young animals or animals that may live longer than 21 years. In addition, a pet trust can cover any domestic animal – dogs, cats, birds, horses, etc. At the trust’s termination, the remaining funds are usually dispersed to the testator’s estate or another nonprofit organization.


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Why Use A Pet Trust?

In any standard estate planning documents, a pet owner can leave their pet in the care of another individual, but the pet owner has no way of knowing what the other individual will do or how they will take care of their furry family member. It is ultimately up to the individual who receives the pet to decide how or if they will take care of the pet. Sometimes the pet owner will leave a certain amount of money to take care of the pet, but again the funds may not be used for the pet’s care.

Therefore, by creating a pet trust, the pet guardian can specify the pet’s care. If the appointed caretaker does not follow the guidelines laid out by the pet owner, the trustee can force the caretaker to follow the owner’s wishes. A pet trust will give the pet owner more peace of mind when it comes to their furry family members.


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What To Put In A Pet Trust?

For pet owners, many specificities can go into a pet trust. The grantor, the person who creates the trust, can spell out a lot of preferences for how their pets are treated. Below are just some of the provisions that a pet owner can place into their pet trust.

Choose A Trustee And Animal Caretaker

The pet owner will be able to choose a trustee as well as an individual to take care of the animals. A trustee is a person who is in charge of the trust and the funds the pet owner leaves to care for their pet. This person can be the same as the caretaker or a different individual. California law mandates that the pet trustee must consent to a proposed caretaking arrangement.

The caretaker is the person who will provide the everyday care of the animal. This may include shelter, food, medications, exercise, and more. Generally, the caretaker is a trusted friend or family member that is aware of and willing to take on the pet if necessary.

Pet Care And Healthcare

The pet owner who sets up the trust will also be able to choose the level of veterinary care the animal is supposed to receive during its lifetime. The trust can go so far as to name the veterinarian, clinic, how often the pet is to go, and what types of procedures or care they should receive.

If the pet owner would like to, they can also lay out what should happen to their pet in end-of-life decisions for the pet and how matters should be handled after the pet passes away.

Money For The Care Of The Pet

Finally, pet owners should place some funds into the trust to ensure the care of their pets. These funds are managed by the trustee and only given to the caretaker when an expense relating to the pet is incurred. Depending on the level of care advised by the pet owner, they should also place enough money in the trust to cover these expenses. However, it is important to note that a court may limit the amount of money placed into the trust if it seems excessive.

If there is money left in the trust after all of the pets the trust covers pass away, the pet owner will be able to name a beneficiary of those funds. The beneficiary can be a family member, friend, or charity of their choosing.


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Additional Resources

Pet Care Cost Calculator | MyPetChild.com – This resource can help pet owners determine how much money it takes to care for their furry friend properly every month.

Pet Care | American Veterinary Medical Association – This resource provides pet owners with important guidelines to consider when creating a pet trust.


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Santa Barbara Pet Trust Lawyers | Santa Barbara County, CA

Deciding what will happen to your property, financial assets, pets, and personal possessions after you pass away can be difficult. However, if you don’t take the time to make these decisions now, a court may end up dividing your assets for you.  Instead of leaving these important decisions to California courts, consult with knowledgeable estate planning attorneys. Our lawyers at  Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. have over 60 years of estate planning attorneys helping families set up tailored estate plans and can do the same for you.

Ensure the best care for your pet by establishing a pet trust with Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. Call today at (877) 585-1885 to set up your first consultation free of charge. Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. accepts clients throughout California and has offices in San Luis Obispo County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, Kern County, and Santa Barbara County.


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