For many of us, our pets are like family. And, like our family, we worry about how they will be taken care of when we die. After all, a horse can live to be 35 or 40 years old. Some Amazon parrots can live to be 60 to 75 years old! So, pet owners often wonder what will happen if their pets outlive them.
Traditionally, it was very difficult to include providing for your pets in your estate plan.
For a long time, Florida law did not provide pet owners with an estate planning tool to provide for their pets after the owner’s death.
This was because the Florida courts ruled in a number of cases that leaving property to a pet violated the rule against perpetuities. The reasoning was that a pet’s life could not be used as a measuring life for the rule. A complete explanation of the rule against perpetuities is beyond the scope of this post, however, suffice it to say that the rule limits how owners can dispose of their property.
Now, all that has changed.
In 2002, Florida’s statutes were changed to allow for making a trust for your pet.
But before you jump in and create a trust for your pet, however, there are some things you need to know about Florida’s relatively new pet statute.
- The Trustee takes care of the pet. In a Florida Pet Trust, the person you appoint as the trustee of the Pet Trust is the one who will be taking care of your pet when you die. The trustee will take physical possession of your pet (or pets) and will be able to use the money in the trust to pay for your pet’s care: for example, vet bills, and food.
- Only pets living at the time of your death can be provided for in a Florida Pet Trust. Florida’s Pet Trust laws let you, as the “settlor” of the trust, provide a trust for your animals either during your lifetime or after your death. However, only pets that are alive during the settlor’s lifetime can benefit from the trust. In other words, only pets alive during the settlor’s lifetime can be trust beneficiaries. This means that animals cannot be added to the trust after you die.
- Money in the trust that exceeds the pet’s needs will be distributed. Another thing to understand about Pet Trusts is that, unless the trust documents state otherwise, if the amount in the trust is more than required to pay for the pet’s care, it will be distributed either as part of the settlor’s estate or to the settlor himself/herself if living.
There is a lot more to know about Pet Trusts before you can decide whether they are a viable estate planning tool for you. So, if creating a pet trust is something you may be interested in, consult with an experienced estate and trust lawyer.
Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.
Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.