• Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Taxes
  • Planned Giving
  • Who Can Help
Are your legal documents safely stored?

- Contributed by MontereyTrust.com - December 2007

It’s been said that Heaven is where all the dogs you’ve ever loved come to greet you. What a beautiful thought. But what if you get there before your pets?

With so much publicity surrounding the unusually large trust that Leona Helmsley set up for her 8-year old Maltese, “Trouble”, this issue has recently been brought to the forefront of many people’s minds. While most of us cannot, or would not, leave $12 million in trust for our pet, planning for the ongoing care of our pets should be a part of our overall estate planning.

Pet Trusts are becoming more popular and most local estate planning attorneys are comfortable addressing pet planning in their client’s plan. California is one of the states where the creation of a pet trust is legal. (See table below). Since pets are considered property, we can’t leave money outright to an animal but we can put money into a special trust to fund the care of a pet.

Pet trusts are not that different from a trust set up for a child. As part of a revocable living trust or a Will, we can appoint a friend or relative as “Guardian” of the pet and/or “Trustee” of funds that are set aside in a “trust” for the on-going care of a pet. The terms on which we (as Trustor or maker of the trust), would like the funds used needs to be clearly spelled out in the trust and the Trustee is obligated by law to use those funds for the care of the animal in accordance to the terms we set forth. Things you should consider addressing in this trust include types of food to be fed, grooming requirements you would like adhered to, walks, playtime, etc. The types of medical care that you would like funded is very important. Just as we humans make an “Advance Health Care Directive” (See Critical Choices: Health Care Directives in the Sidebar of this site) the trust for your pet should make clear as to what lengths the Trustee should go to save your pet and at which point you want your Trustee to “pull the plug”.

Finally, the Trust should make clear distribution provisions for any funds remaining after your beloved friend has passed on. Keep in mind here that leaving the remaining funds to a charity or other family member may be preferable to leaving the funds to the appointed caregiver of the pet. The obvious reason is the inherent conflict of interest, i.e., if the pet dies sooner rather than later there will be more funds left for the caretaker. Similarly, if the caregiver gets a yearly fee so long as the pet is alive and well, this may serve to make sure the caregiver is incented to keep the pet healthy.

This brings us to another important consideration: Should you name the same person as trustee of the funds as you do as trustee (or guardian) of your pet? If you name a professional trustee like a Bank or private fiduciary as trustee of the funds and a friend or relative as guardian for Fido, the two can work together to make sure each is fulfilling your wishes and the terms of the Agreement.

Remember to make provisions for a “successor trustee” if your initial trustee is not available to act on your pet’s behalf and also make provisions for the burial or disposition of your pet after he or she passes on.

Alternative Solutions

If you don’t have a friend or relative that you can ask to be your pet guardian after you are gone or if your funds are not sufficient enough to establish a trust fund for their care, you may consider contacting Animal Friends Rescue Project. If you have a dog or cat, you can make “pre-need” plans with AFRP. You can specify if you would like the pets to remain with you throughout your life and be taken after you pass away, or you can specify if you would like them taken at some point prior to your passing. AFRP has a “no kill” policy and the pets stay in loving, safe “foster homes” until a permanent home is found. For a reasonable donation, AFRP will provide an appropriate solution to this end of life question. Animal Friends Rescue Project’s main adoption facility is located in Pacific Grove at 560 Lighthouse Avenue and can be reached by phone at (831) 333-0722. (For more information see Who Does What in the Sidebar of this site or go to their website at www.animalfriendsrescue.org).

Additionally, the SPCA of Monterey County has a wonderful program called Guardian Angle Future Care for Your Pet. The SPCA website has good suggestions for things to consider when drafting your pet trust including a “Pet Profile” that will provide information for your pet guardian. A copy of the Profile form has been reproduced in this Sidebar section with the permission of Susan Koza from the Monterey County SPCA. The SPCA provides adoption programs for all types of pets, dogs, cats, parrots, horses and even the pet iguana. If you would like to learn more about the adoption services at the SPCA, contact Susan Koza at (831) 373-2631 x221or at her email: skoza@spcama.org. The address is 1002 Highway 68, P.O. Box 3058 Monterey, CA 93942 or visit their website at www.spcamc.org

If you have a horse or horses, a Trust can also be established as discussed above. However, if your horse is only the apple of your eye and every other person you know thinks she’s a nag, doing some pre-need planning is essential. The Redwings Horse Sanctuary may be a solution. Redwings is located on a 160-acre ranch in Lockwood (southern Monterey County), California. The Redwings family currently consists of 90 equines, three part-time and five full-time staff members, and more than 100 volunteers. They take in animals for retirement or eventual adoption out to pre-qualified homes. Again, arrangements should be made ahead of time and a donation is expected. Redwings Horse Sanctuary can be contacted at P.O. Box 58, Lockwood, CA 93932, Phone: (831) 386-0135 or at their website at www.Redwings.org Also, Crazy Canyon Ranch in King City, California, will let your horse retire with them for a fee. This is a for-profit organization and can be reached at (831)385-1899. The Ranch has pastures or paddocks depending on the health of the horse. Arrangements must be made ahead of time and the facility will determine an “endowment” amount based on a projection made by a veterinarian as to the life expectancy of your horse and the horse’s anticipated medical needs. Finally, the SPCA is always responsive to any type of animal care options and may also be able to help with placement. Their contact information is contained above.

Almost without exception, parrots will outlive their owners. If your favorite friend is feathered, arrangements should be made in your estate plan for the ongoing care of your parrot or the transfer of ownership to another individual upon your passing. All arrangements for pets should be carefully thought through and the recipient or trustee should agree ahead of time. With parrots, this is doubly important. Parrots are exotic animals and the person you choose should have experience with parrots and, if possible, already be acquainted with your bird or birds. If you do not have a friend that will accept guardianship, look into a sanctuary or preserve that will accept your parrot upon your passing.

One place to consider may be The Oasis Sanctuary which is a Rescue and Retirement facility for exotic birds. The Oasis offers birds a stable and loving home for the duration of their natural lives and they do not sell or breed birds, nor do they offer them for adoption. The Oasis Sanctuary is located approximately 50 miles east of Tucson, Arizona in the San Pedro River Valley, not far from Benson, Arizona. This remote location affords a peaceful home for over 400 winged residents. The Oasis Sanctuary business office can be reached at P.O. Box 30502, Phoenix, AZ 85046-0502 Voice: (602) 863-1543 or the Sanctuary at 5411 N. Teran Road, Benson, AZ 85602 Voice: (520) 212-4737
Fax: (520) 212-0123. www.the-oasis.org

So, think things through, talk with your estate planning attorney and the proposed trustee or guardian and then take care of planning for the ongoing care of your pet. We now have numerous options to make sure that our Pacos, Jacks, or Tweedys are cared for like they should be until we come to greet them at the gate to heaven.

Currently, 38 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that let residents set up "statutory pet trusts”. In states that allow statutory pet trusts, you can create one by adding a few lines to your will or you can set up a separate trust.

Alabama New York
Alaska North Carolina
Arizona North Dakota
Arkansas Ohio
California Oregon
Colorado Pennsylvania
District of Columbi Rhode Island
Florida South Carolina
Hawaii South Dakota
Idaho Tennessee
Illinios Texas
Indiana Utah
Iowa Virginia
Kansas Washington
Maine Wisconsin
Michigan Wyoming
New Hampshire  
New Jersey  
New Mexico *Source: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2007)

The above does not represent legal or tax advice. Any estate planning should be done in consultation with your attorney and tax adviser. The reference to the organizations listed above does not represent endorsement of those organizations.

Liza Horvath is a professional corporate trustee [link].

Other articles by this author









Home Continuing Education Calendar Directory of Professionals Members Only Become a Member Search Contact Us
The information provided on this website is intended as general reference information only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice based on a particular or factual situation. The information on this web site does not constitute professional legal advice, accounting or tax advice and should not be interpreted as such. Although we have made every reasonable effort to ensure that the information provided is accurate, MontereyTrust, its Members, shareholders, managers and staff, make no warranties, expressed or implied, on the information provided on this web site. The user of the information contained herein accepts it as is and assumes all responsibility for its ultimate use.

© 2014 MontereyTrust.com.  All Rights Reserved.
Follow Us on Facebook!