Pets and Your California Estate Plan
Your pet is a valued member of your family, and if you are concerned about what will happen to the beloved animal after you pass, you are not alone. Fortunately, California recognizes how important pets are to their owners and is, therefore, one of the states that allows you to assign a guardian for your pet, to create a trust that is designed to support your pet, or both. The matter of pets and your estate plan is important, and the experienced estate planning attorneys at Kushner Legal (310-279-5166) in Los Angeles can help answer all of your legal questions regarding your estate plan.
A Guardian for Your Pet
A simple, straightforward strategy for addressing the matter of your pets and their care after your death is naming a guardian in your California will. A guardian is someone whom you appoint to provide care for your pet in the event that you are unable to do so. While this is a one-and-done approach, it may not be as comprehensive as you would like it to be. For example, if the guardian whom you name does not have the time, ability, or financial means to care for your pet in a manner that aligns with your wishes, choosing the guardianship route is unlikely to ensure that your pet will be cared for in accordance with your wishes after your death. Further, while you can also set aside money for the care of your pet in your will, there is no way to control how the funds will actually be used.
A Trust for Your Pet
The State of California is one of a few states that has a probate code on the books addressing pets in estate planning. Until 1991, California – like many other states – considered pets part of their owners’ property. Since 1991, however, the state has made two pet-related additions to its probate code that address the matter of trusts, including:
- California’s Probate Code Section 15211 allows you to set up a trust with the intention of providing up to 21 years of care and nourishment for your pet.
- California’s Probate Code Section 15212 allows you to set up a trust with the intention of providing lifelong care for your pet.
When you address the issue of pets and your estate plan, it is important to have a long-term plan – not something that focuses solely on their immediate needs. Points to keep in mind in the establishment of your estate plan as it relates to your pet include:
- Your pet’s current age and his or her expected life span
- Whether or not your pet has any species-specific or otherwise challenging needs that should be specifically addressed
- The cost associated with your pet’s care, feeding, and overall accommodations
- Any emergency expenses for veterinary care, surgeries, or medications that may arise
The compassionate estate planning attorneys at Kushner Legal in Los Angeles recognize how important your pet is to you and encourage you to address the matter of their needs after your passing in your estate plan sooner rather than later.
Choosing a Trustee
As a loving pet owner, you understand that your pet needs more than a bowl of water, food, and a walk, and that choosing the right trustee from the outset is critical. You are looking for someone who will provide your pet with the same level of love and care that you do, which means that both of the following should apply to the trustee you assign:
- The trustee should have the ability, the desire, and the financial means to thoughtfully address your pet’s needs over time (in accordance with your wishes).
- The trustee should be capable of assuming the role of trustee relatively quickly (to help ensure that there is not gap in your pet’s care).
It is important to discuss your plans with your potential trustee to help ensure that he or she consents to becoming a trustee in this capacity (which is required by state law) and is willing to accept this assigned task.
An Experienced Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
The best time to address the matter of pets and your estate plan is well before the need arises, and the trusted estate planning attorneys at Kushner Legal in Los Angeles dedicate their practice to helping clients like you obtain the peace of mind regarding their pets that they are looking for. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 310-279-5166 today.