Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pet Trusts are no joke. Have you protected your 4-Legged or Winged Friends?

In January 2009, California finally enacted Probate Code 152121 which provides the ability to draft legally enforceable trusts to provide for the care of your pets after your death or incapacity.

Before the law was enacted, planning for pets was a bit tricky and had to be done using loopholes - essentially because a "pet" could not be a valid beneficiary of a will or trust. Courts will now enforce trust that provide for pets and will even allow evidence supporting the intent of the trust or will maker in enforcing these pet trusts. Basically, these new pet trust will be subject to all provision of the Probate Code that govern wills and trusts.

Pet trusts can be designed to ensure that they only benefit the pet(s) (and not the pet care taker) and to provide a reasonable compensation for the person you appoint to manage the pet trust (trustee). The trusts will also provide for a distribution of any unused funds after your pet dies. Furthermore, if there is not enough money left in the trust to care for your pet, the trust should be designed to allow for the trust to terminate.

If you are concerned about how you pet trust is managed, you can also name an "enforcer" of the trust. Depending on how much money you are setting aside, this may be an important planning concern. The other side of this though is that you may want to have your trust drafted to prevent or limit any third party inspections of your trust as is allowed under the new law. The law allows that any person interested in the welfare of your pet or even a charity whose main activity is the care of animals can seek court approval to be appointed as an "enforcer" of your pet trust. These enforcers may have powers that you do not want an outsider person or organization to have.

Finally, as is the case with all trusts, pet trusts must be reviewed every year or so to be certain that your wishes and objectives are still being met as laws and life are perpetually changing.

For more information on how to protect your pets with a pet trust, call 925-516-1617 or email info@alvisfrantzlaw.com to schedule a consultation.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.