The major consideration in deciding if a pet trust is worth including in your estate plan depends largely on both the cost of the trust and the longevity of your pet’s life expectancy. For example, if your pet has a short life-expectancy, your own durable power of attorney can provide that during the owner’s extended illness or incapacity, the agent named in the durable power of attorney, is authorized to pay the bills required for the care of the owner’s pets.

The durable power of attorney can specify the type of care authorized for the pets.

The durable power of attorney may also include authorization for paying for the pet’s regular exercise, grooming, veterinary care, and special dietary needs, if any. A person’s disability planning documents can also state that it is his or her intention for the household pets to remain in the home with the owner, as long as it is medically advisable.

Similarly, if a revocable trust has been established, a successor trustee can be directed in this instrument to pay for the pet’s regular exercise and medical care if the owner can no longer provide this care.

The successor trustee can also be authorized to pay family members or friends for the time they expend in attending to the pets.

In the alternative, a successor trustee can be specifically authorized to employ pet care professionals to arrange for the pet’s regular exercise and companionship. To use another example, the trust can state that professional pet sitters may come to the home to exercise a dog and attend to a cat or another pet.

The trust can also state which veterinary clinic has attended to these animals and direct that this veterinary clinic should continue to care for these animals if the owner becomes incapacitated.

The will or trust provisions regarding the pet could state that if the person being left the pet and the right to receive money to care for the pet’s medical care and support is unable or unwilling to care for the pet, this gift will lapse. In such event, the personal representative or trustee should be directed to arrange for a suitable home for the domestic pet and to prepay the projected medical care and food costs for the projected lifetime of the pet.

The Florida legislature has approved legislation permitting a person to establish a trust for the care of a deceased person’s animals.

The legislation states that a trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during a person’s lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal, or if the trust is created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the person’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal. Unless a trust document provides otherwise, the Florida statutes regarding the administration of a trust will apply to a trust for the care of an animal.

The law states that a circuit judge may determine whether the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the projected expenses for the animal. Further, the law states that trust property determined by the circuit judge to not be required for this intended use shall be distributed as directed to the ultimate beneficiaries named in the trust.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. One of our estate planning goals is to ensure that both pet owners and pets have the planning in place they need to protect them in the event of a crisis. Do not wait to ask us your questions and get the answers you need.