Plan For Your Pet’s Future With A Trust for Companion Animal

We have recently written about estate planning and business succession planning, but one question about planning for the future we have not answered, and which is being asked with ever-increasing frequency by individuals and families, is:

What becomes of your pets if they outlive you?

A few of you may laugh at this question, but for many pet owners, especially older people for whom a pet has become their closest companion, this is a serious estate planning and financial consideration.

In most states, a common legally acceptable practice for providing for the care of a pet after you are deceased is to establish a Pet Trust for your companion animal. The laws about Pet Trusts differ in every state, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s Pet Trust statute. At the moment, only 44 states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed Pet Trust legislation. In California, an updated Pet Trust law that was sponsored by the San Francisco SPCA, SB 685, went into affect in 2009.

Of course, when dealing with your family’s legal and financial matters, many questions and complex issues need to be considered. Some of the Pet Trust topics we discussed this week on our radio (“Share the Wealth” on 1220 AM KDOW, Saturdays at noon) were:

  • The minimum funds needed to start a Pet Trust
  • How to assign power of attorney should you become incapacitated
  • How property reassessments and income taxes affect a Pet Trust long-term
  • Trusts for less-common household pets, usually in rural areas, such as horses and exotic birds

Here is more information on  the subject of Pet Trusts, provided by Gerry W. Beyer, the Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law: Estate Planning for Pet Owners – Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Trusts

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, and you do not want to go so far as to create a trust for your pet, an alternative options exists. You can contact the SF SPCA about its Sido Program, which will ensure pets are cared for while the agency works diligently to place them in an appropriate home.

One point we emphasized on the radio is that you should never feel embarrassed about wanting to make sure an animal, any animal, is properly cared for if you can no longer manage that responsibility, no mater the reason. For a pet that has become a part of your family, the desire to that should be a natural and common occurrence, regardless if insensitive individuals may laugh about it.

If you are considering establishing a trust for your pets, as Professor Beyer states at the end of his article, “You should consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and, if possible, who also has experience with pet trusts.”

At the Law Offices of Connie Yi, P.C., we not only specialize in estate planning, wills and trusts (including pet trusts), but, because Connie Yi is also a CPA (and a pet owner!), we can bring an extra dimension of financial analysis to your plan.

To schedule a free consultation about a Pet Trust, or your family’s overall estate planning, please contact us. For your convenience, we have four conveniently located offices in the Bay area: San Francisco, San Mateo, San Jose, and Pleasanton.

Next week on our radio show, we will discuss troubled real estate and the impact of the down economy on trusts, including how to deal with siblings who may have mismanaged or abused a family trust fund and how to preserve capital in a trust fund rather than letting lenders take it.

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2 Responses to Plan For Your Pet’s Future With A Trust for Companion Animal

  1. Though website articles of this type underscore the need for planning in advance regarding one’s estate, they also serve a useful purpose to highlight for the general public the need and importance of including ones pets in their estate planning. There are many questions raised when planning for companion animals that bear discussion and sometimes there are no easy answers.

    Our intention when we created our book, ‘Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs’, was that it would be an easy to understand and complete resource of information and ideas that the general public could immediately use; for providing guidance to those who would like to explore planning possibilities for their families and pets; and for stimulating people to take action before they are in a position where they can’t.

    We hope as many people as possible will be encouraged to deal with this type of planning rather than leave it to others and the courts when they no longer can.
    We believe our book is of great value to everyone who loves their companion animals.

    Barry Seltzer, Lawyer & Professor Gerry W. Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law

    A few observations about ‘Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs’

    I have received … a copy of your book, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs. I look forward to reading it. Thank you for thinking of me.

    Very truly yours, JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR,
    Supreme Court of the United States

    The book if full of wonderful anecdotes and sound advice. I know I will enjoy reading it.

    Sincerely yours,
    Supreme Court of the United States

    Thank you for…your book…I look forward to reading it. It is so nice to see other animal lovers taking time to instruct people on how to care for their pet’s well being.

    Martha Stewart

    • Staff says:

      Professor Seltzer,

      Thank you for visiting our blog, for your comment, and for promoting this important topic. We agree that it would be much better to plan for your pet’s long-term welfare via estate planning ahead of time rather than leave it to the courts after you are gone.

      Connie Yi

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