Pet Trusts

Very few people have $12 million dollars to leave to their pet like Leona Helmsley did for her dog, Trouble. 

Helmsley had very specific ideas about what should happen to Trouble after her death.  She wanted her brother to have the dog.  He didn’t want Trouble.  After Trouble died, Helmsley wanted Trouble buried with her at her burial site.  Unfortunately, pet remains were not allowed where she was buried.  She probably would have benefitted from further pet trust planning.  

Taking care of a long-time pet with a trust. Photo is of Syntax at 16.California is one of several states that has legally enforceable pet trusts.  In other words, a Trust can be created to provide for a pet or pets when a pet owner dies or becomes incapacitated.  In a properly drafted pet trust a pet owner can:

  1. name the pet(s)  as the beneficiary of a Will or Trust;
  2. appoint a caretaker for the pet and a trustee who will manage the money for the pet; 
  3. appoint someone to enforce the trust to ensure that the trust’s terms are carried out as the owner desired.

Under the California pet trust law, beneficiaries (who would inherit after the pet dies) and certain qualified animal organizations (that have their principal activity as the care of animals) can have a pet inspection to evaluate how the pet is being cared for.  They can also, in cases where the assets are over $40,000, demand an accounting of the trust assets. 

A Real-Life Tale

Chihuahua heiress"Chihuahua at Center of Fight Over Posner Heiress's Will" said the headline in the June 17, 2010 Wall Street Journal. The article explains how three dogs were provided with a $3 million trust fund which was being contested by the decedent's son.

Read the details in the Journal and get suggestions on how to avoid fights about your legacy.

Were you to set up a trust for your pet, one of your main considerations for a pet trust would be to determine the right amount of money needed to care for your pet until its death.

Pet trusts can be reduced in size if someone challenges your pet trust for allocating too much money for your pet’s care.  As a result, an unintended person may receive part of your estate.  Careful planning can reduce that risk. 

As with each person, each pet has individualized needs.  A pet trust may be the right choice for you to plan for the care of your pet. 

If you would like to find out more about pet trusts and other estate planning options for pet owners, contact us at the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald (415) 482-7555.