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Do I Address My Pets in My Estate Plan?

When developing an estate plan, many pet owners don’t address what to do about their pets in the case of owner incapacitation or death. Loyal pet owners should make sure that there is plan in place. In the state of Florida, what options do I have to ensure the wellbeing of my pet when unpredictable circumstances arise?

Provisions in a durable power of attorney, last will and testament or revocable living trust are necessary if you consider your pet to be more than just property. If your pet is not mentioned in your will, it will be considered personal property: the same way your furniture is. The most common of these options is creating a will or revocable living trust. These tools provide detailed instructions for the person named to take care of the pet as well as a designated amount of money to be disbursed to this individual. However, it is important to remember that a will is only effective after death and will not be effective in the case of incapacitation.

On the other hand, a pet trust would suffice in cases of owner incapacitation. However, "when the named beneficiary of the trust was a person and not the pet, Florida courts were powerless to enforce the provisions of the trust to ensure that the needs of the pets were protected and that the monies were used for the benefit of the pet and not the human beneficiary (FloridaBar.org).” Because of this, there is an opportunity for a pet trust protector to be appointed to secure and protect the wellbeing of the pet.

Below is the full Florida Statute.

The Florida Statute 736.0408 states,

(1) A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal.

(2) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed. (This is referred to as a trust protector)

(3) Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to the intended use of the property, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise as part of the settlor’s estate.

All of us here at Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC are huge animal lovers and urge you to think about your pets when developing an estate plan. Lauren Richardson’s pup, Victor, visits the firm often and is considered to be the morale booster.

Victor says, “Don’t forget about pets like me in your estate plan!”

If you want to create a pet trust or learn more information, feel free to contact Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC at 352-204-2224.

Source:

https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=%2FDIVCOM%2FJN%2Fjnjournal01.nsf%2FArticles%2F333E2F57ACFEA21B85257D7E00486720

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0736/Sections/0736.0408.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robclarfeld/2017/03/30/estate-planning-include-your-pets/#3265a8173676