How to Include Pets in Your Estate Planning

Humboldt County residents who value their pets should make plans to care for them in their estate plan.  If you should become incompetent before you die, a properly prepared durable power of attorney and revocable living trust can be used to provide care for your pets. Upon your death, your revocable living trust or will can provide for your pets’ long term care.

An outright gift to your pets is not valid in California.  Therefore, if you want to provide for the care of your pets after your death, you should provide for them through a trust designed to care for them.  If you should move from California, you should determine whether your estate plan needs to be modified in your new state to provide for your pets.
Just as you would in choosing a trustee to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries, you should use care in selecting a trustee to carry out the terms of your pet trust.  California law provides for enforcement of pet trust provisions by a trustee of the trust, a beneficiary of the trust, a person interested in the animal’s welfare, or a non-profit animal welfare organization.  However, you need to recognize that court enforcement may not be timely, and there may not be a person or organization willing to spend their funds to petition the court for proper enforcement.
Given the time and money we spend on our pets during our life, we cannot forget to provide for the care of our pets if they outlive us.