A Guide to Florida Pet Trust Law
January 28th, 2022
The internet is full of sad stories about pets who are sent to shelters after their owners are no longer able to care for them. If you are a “pet parent,” you may want to be certain that your cat, dog, horse, or bird is provided for after you are gone or incapacitated. The Florida pet trust law can help you do that, giving you a legally recognized tool to direct your pet’s care and keeping as part of your broader estate plan.
How the Florida Pet Trust Law Works
If you are looking at options to set up a pet trust, Florida estate planning law is quite generous. State statutes allow you to establish a “trust for care of an animal” that will continue until the death of the last animal described in the trust. (Some other states limit this to 21 years.) This law allows you to create an estate plan broad enough to cover even long-living pets like horses, birds, or certain reptiles.
The pet trust works just like a revocable living trust. You, the grantor, create a legal trust entity by executing trust documents and fund the trust by placing money and assets into a separate account in the trust’s name. For a pet trust, that includes:
- The pets themselves (they count as personal property for estate planning purposes)
- any equipment or accessories they may need
- enough money to cover their anticipated expenses
In addition, your trust documents will name a trustee, who manages the money, and a caregiver, who manages the pets. You may name more than one person to either of these positions, and can name successors in case one trustee or caregiver is unable or unwilling to take responsibility for your pets after you pass away.
Benefits of a Pet Trust
Including a pet trust in your estate plan is an excellent way to make sure your pets receive uninterrupted care that lives up to your standards. If you don’t specifically include your pets in your estate plan, there could be a delay in determining who has the authority to care for them.
This is especially true if you become incapacitated prior to your death. Remember that Wills only take effect after you pass away. Guardianships can allow a loved one to oversee your care, and maintain your property, but they are a clumsy tool when it comes to managing your pet’s care and upkeep. A well-written pet trust can automatically pass caregiving and trustee responsibilities to the people of your choice should you become incapacitated. This will save your family members from having to go to court to get authority to work with your vet, groomers, or boarding facilities.
Pet trusts also allow you to be exceedingly precise in your instructions for your favorite pets’ care. You are the one who knows your pet best. If they only eat a certain kind of cat food, or need to be shaved every summer, you can include those requirements in your trust documents. You can even direct which veterinarian they can go to.
Most importantly, a pet trust is the best way to make certain your pets are never sent to a shelter. Because it includes the funds to pay for the pets’ care, it takes the burden off your family or loved ones to provide for them after you are gone. You can line up multiple caregivers, if needed. That way you know that your beloved companion is in good hands throughout their lifetimes.
Issues to Consider in Creating a Trust for Your Pets
As the grantor, and pet owner, it will be up to you to set the specific terms of your pet trust. You will need to provide your trust attorney with information regarding:
- Names and addresses for pet trustees (who will manage the money)
- Names and addresses for caregivers (who will care for your pet)
- Identifying information for the pets such as photos, microchip numbers, and DNA samples (to prevent fraud)
- Your pet’s care and standard of living
- Veterinary care expectations, and which vets should be used
- Final wishes for your pet’s burial or cremation
- Where any remaining funds should go after your last animal passes away
Your trust attorney will also help you determine how much money to set aside for your pet’s care based on their age, life expectancy, and current expenses. This amount should be enough to cover:
- Food, litter, toys, treats, and day-to-day needs
- Boarding, stabling, or housing costs
- Grooming, shoeing, and other maintenance needs
- Routine veterinary expenses
- Emergency veterinary expenses
- Burial or cremation expenses
- Reasonable compensation for trustees’ and caregivers’ time and effort
Get Help Planning for Your Pet’s Future
For some people, knowing their pets will be provided for even after their deaths or incapacity can be a great relief. At Harrison Estate Law, we can help you build an estate plan that takes care of your whole family, including your pets. We will help plan for, prepare, and fund a pet trust to provide for your animals after you are no longer able to care for them. Please contact us online or via email or call 352-559-9828 to schedule a free consultation. If you don’t live close to Gainesville or are socially isolating due to the Covid-19 epidemic, we are happy to set up a phone or Zoom call.