By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 13, 2022
Few people plan and fewer plan specifically for their pets. For most people, they are lumped together with the other assets and just “dealt with”. Do you want your pet to be treated like an old stereo? Is that what you want for your pet?
You’ve probably heard the stories of celebrities creating pet trusts for the benefit of their octopuses and cats. Well it’s not just for celebrities — they just happen to know and care enough about it. In Florida, you can draft a pet trust as the primary beneficiary, and appoint secondary beneficiaries. Check out the law yourself:
736.0408 Trust for care of an animal.
(1)A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal.
(2)A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.
(3)Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to the intended use of the property, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise as part of the settlor’s estate.
Like other trusts, you appoint a trustee(s) and successor trustee(s) to manage the trust assets for the benefit of the pet. You can state the terms for which the pet is to be provided for to prevent a disruption in care and continuity of quality of life. The specificity and detail in the instructions is up to you.
Remember, trustees have a fiduciary duty to administer the trust pursuant to the precise instructions in the trust agreement. That means they have an elevated standard of care that leaves them personally responsible/liable for failing to do their job.
Since trustees are generally doing a job, and in this case also taking care of a pet, it should make sense that the trustee(s) are compensated for their time and work. You can even add additional incentive to the trustee’s faithful performance by making the trustee a secondary beneficiary once the pet passes away.
Perhaps you are more philanthropic. In that case, you can provide for the balance of the trust to be devised to a charity that you designate, such as one for animals. If you’re paranoid, an example of attaching strings to the trustee/beneficiary would be for you to stipulate that there are requirements for the pet to live a certain amount of time for the trustee to receive any interest in the trust, thus incentivizing the trustee to provide better care of the pet.
The point here is that you can plan for your family, which more often than not includes pets as family members. Sadly not enough families plan ahead and their pets are treated as old luggage. How are you going to incorporate your pet into your estate planning now that you know that you have vehicles available to you to care for them?
Originally Published 1/3/2013 – Updated 7/13/2022
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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