Protect Your Pet With a Pet Trust

Fortin Law Group

Published: October 06, 2021

We all love our pets. They are beloved family members providing years of companionship. But, what would happen if your pet out-lived you? The worst thing imaginable could happen - your beloved pet would end up in a kill shelter because there was no one to care for it. At the least, your pet could end up in the custody (even if temporary) of a person or organization not of your desire or choosing.

Perhaps none of us can provide for our pets like the infamous case of Leona Helmsley, the famous (or some may say infamous and otherwise referred to euphemistically as the “Queen of Mean”) hotelier and real estate mogul billionaire. Ms. Helmsley loved her precocious little Maltese dog aptly named Trouble. No stranger to planning ahead, Ms. Helmsley created a pet trust for Trouble. The Pet Trust provided Trouble with a life after Ms. Helmsley was gone that was befitting of the royal treatment. Trouble was the beneficiary of Ms. Helmsley's $12 million estate. Yet, the $12 million was later reduced to $2 million which included yearly expenses of $190,000. The $190,000 included a security team for $100,000 per year to protect Trouble, from - you guessed it - trouble; yearly grooming at $8,000; food at $1,200 per year and medical expenses to address Trouble’s kidney troubles at $2,500 to $18,000 (yearly). After Ms. Helmsley’s brother refused to care for “poor” Trouble, she was flown to Florida to live out her remaining years in the lifestyle of the rich and famous with her guardian. Her guardian did change her diet from champagne wishes and caviar dreams to canned dog food. It is rumored the Trouble had no trouble with the guardian’s culinary discretion - Trouble gained a pound but still retained her svelte figure. The guardian was allegedly paid $60,000 to keep Trouble trouble-free.

California allows the creation of a Pet Trust to provide for the care of your pets during their lifetime. But, you don’t have to have the last name of Helmsley or be a billionaire to provide for your precious pet. It is wise to follow the lead of a billionaire, though, and create a Pet Trust.

Why set up a Pet Trust? Five Reasons:

1. Protect Your Pet’s Future.

You can’t leave your money, property, or life insurance policy directly to your pet. You can, however, leave money designated to provide for the care and treatment by a designation of your wishes in a Pet Trust. You can ensure that your pet’s future is trouble-free.

2. Protect Your Pet for the Remainder of Its Life.

California Probate Code Section 15212 provides that the trust designations (money, support, guardian, etc. for your pet) cease upon the death of your pet or the last remaining pet specified in the trust. Your pet will be protected with the monies that you designate for the remainder of its life. You can specify where you would like the remaining monies to be distributed upon the pet’s death. You are in control and create the trust as to your specific wishes. Often, the remaining monies are designated to a favorite charity or distributed amongst other trust beneficiaries.

3. Provide Your Pet with Its Specific Lifetime Needs and Preferences.

Does your pet prefer Liver and Lindberger or Beef and Broccoli or Purina and Puperoni? Does your pet have medical restrictions, medicine, exercise limits? Within the Pet Trust designation, you can designate and be as specific as needed based upon your pet’s needs and to maintain your pet’s standard of living.

4. Designate Your Pet’s Funeral or Burial Needs.

Not only can you ensure that the expenses for your pet are covered for any funeral or burial expenses, but you can also be specific. For example, would you prefer a particular veterinarian or pet last days facilitator? Do you want a funeral or a scattering of ashes? You designate in the Pet Trust your desires for your pet’s final disposition.

5. Ensure Your Pet Has A Caregiver.

By designating a caregiver and successive caregivers, you ensure there will always be someone trusted to carry out your wishes and desires for the remainder of your pet’s life. If you would prefer a trusted rescue or pet society to care for your fur friend, you can provide for that as well.

Fortin Law Group is here to help. We don’t just draft documents; we help pet parents make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for themselves and the pets they love. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.

This article was provided by Fortin Law Group, Laguna Niguel, California. This article is intended to provide the reader with general information regarding current legal issues. It is not construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for the need to seek competent legal advice on specific legal matters.

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