Trusts are a popular estate planning vehicle in California. But trusts can be used for many purposes besides managing financial assets for the benefit of loved ones. In fact, California’s Probate Code specifically says a trust can be established for any purpose that is not illegal or contrary to public policy. A good example of a specialized trust is the pet trust.
The purpose of a pet trust is to ensure that one or more pets are cared for when their owner is incapacitated or deceased. The person who creates the trust, known as the settlor, transfers funds to the trustee, to be used to care for the animals. The trustee can be instructed to care for the animal, or the trust can designate a separate caregiver to whom the trustee will make periodic payments for the animal’s care.
The trust can provide as much detail as the settlor desires with respect to how the animal should be cared for and how the money should be spent. The trust could provide, for example, that some of the funds be used to pay a person to walk a dog regularly. It could set aside a portion of the funds for regular veterinary care. It could provide that only a certain brand or quality of pet food be purchased.
Under California law a pet trust terminates upon the death of the last covered animal that was alive when the settlor died. The trust should specify what is done with any funds remaining in the trust when it terminates. If the trust was created in the settlor’s will, the will can contain this provision. If neither of these documents address the disposition of unused trust funds, the court will distribute them to the settlor’s heirs.
Preparing a pet trust can provide significant peace of mind for anyone who is concerned about the care of a beloved animal. An experienced estate planning attorney can help a pet owner prepare a trust that will be legally valid and carry out the owner’s wishes.
Source: leginfo.cal.gov, “Cal. Prob. Code § 15203, 15212,” accessed Sept. 16, 2016