Estate Planning for Companion Animals and Pets
It may seem strange to an animal lover but the law classifies a pet as personal property that can be inherited. California, as well as 49 other states and the District of Columbia, has enacted a “Pet Trust” law. Minnesota is the odd state out. California Probate Code Section 15212 expressly authorizes the creation of a trust for the care of animals. This section even provides for enforcement of such trusts in a liberal way, “any trustee or beneficiary of the trust, person interested in the animal’s welfare, or nonprofit animal welfare organization may petition the court…” (emphasis added).
Pet Trusts can be created in a Last Will and Testament or as a Revocable Living Trust. A Pet Trust created in a Last Will and Testament will have to go through the Probate Court process. A Revocable Living Trust has the benefit of avoiding Probate, in most cases this is the very reason someone would create one.
Some alternatives to a Pet Trust are –
- An outright gift or bequest of the pet to someone in the owner’s Will (no Pet Trust is created and this involves the Probate Court)
- An outright gift to an animal protection organization that has a permanent care or adoption service
- An outright gift to someone in the owner’s Revocable Living Trust, again no Pet Trust is created but this doesn’t require Probate Court supervision.
- Informal arrangements with a friend or relative to care for the pet
An Estate Planning attorney rarely recommends Probate as the best Estate Plan. However, any plan made by someone is almost always better than the default government plan. Bingham Law offers a free initial consultation and would be glad to answer questions from pet owners.