Can You Trust Your Pet?
By Peggy R. Hoyt, J.D., M.B.A., B.C.S.
*BOARD CERTIFIED IN WILLS, TRUSTS AND ESTATES
A growing number of states are adopting pet trust statues that allow loving pet owners to officially include their pets as part of their estate plans. These laws allow the creation of a trust specifically to benefit a pet so that your pets can be protected in the event you die or become disabled.
Planning for your pets is critically important – as important as planning for your children – because your pets will never be able to care for themselves. Often we assume that family or friends will be responsible for our pets if something happens to us, but the reality is that many of these loved pets end up in shelters across the country. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 4 to 5 million pets are euthanized annually, with more than a million of these as a direct result of the failure on the part of the owners to provide for their pets in the event of death or disability. All My Children Wear Fur Coats – How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet addresses the need for planning for our pets as well as providing check lists and other useful information for creating lasting pet legacies. It also addresses issues, including grieving for pets, related to the loss of a pet during our lifetime.
Florida's pet trust statute (F.S. 737.116) gives pet owners the ability to name their pet as the beneficiary of a trust created for the pet’s lifetime benefit. A trustee should be appointed to administer the trust assets and oversee the activities of the pet caregiver. An Animal Care Panel can also be appointed for additional protection of the pets. The Florida pet trust statute is set forth below. It is fairly typical of pet trust statutes in other states. To date, more than 40 states have adopted some version of a pet trust statute for the protection of pets.
Peggy, as a founding member of The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, LLC, is dedicated to working with individuals and their advisors to co-create estate plans that pass on your values as well as your valuables. Everyone needs an estate plan – regardless of the size of your estate. Protect your pets, include them as one of your most valuable and priceless assets.
Florida Pet Trust Statute
737.116 Trust for care of animal
- (1) A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor's lifetime. The trust terminates upon 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, upon the death of the last surviving animal.
- (2) Except as provided in this section, the law of this state regarding the creation and administration of express trusts applies to a trust for the care of an animal.
- (3) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is so 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. The appointed person shall have the rights of a trust beneficiary for the purpose of enforcing the trust, including receiving accountings, notices, and other information from the trustee and providing consents.
- (4) Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to its intended use, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Property not required for the intended use, including the trust property remaining upon its termination, shall be distributed in the following order of priority:
- (a) As directed by the terms of the trust;
- (b) To the settlor, if then living;
- (c) Pursuant to the residuary clause of the settlor's will if the trust for the animal was created in a preresiduary clause in the settlor's will;
- (d) If the settlor is deceased, pursuant to the residuary provisions of the inter vivos trust if the trust for the animal was created in a preresiduary clause in the trust instrument; or
- (e) To the settlor's heirs.
- (5) This section applies to trusts created on or after January 1, 2003.
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