Did you know you can provide for your pets with a pet trust? Ensure that your pets are taken care of with a plan.

Pet Trusts: A Brief History

The courts have held in prior decisions that an outright gift to an animal is void. For example, in Estate of Russell (1968) 69 C2d 200, the court found that a dog, Roxy Russell, could not be a beneficiary of a will. As a result, it limited the distribution of property to a “person.” A “person” is defined to include individuals, corporations, and charities.

Unfortunately, after the Russell case, planning for a pet became a challenge for estate planning attorneys and their clients. 

After that, in 1991, the California legislature enacted former probate code §15212, which permitted pet trusts for the care of “a designated domestic or pet animal.”  This probate code allowed a trustee to administer a trust for a decedent’s companion animal’s lifetime.  

Unfortunately, former probate code §15212 was all bark and no bite, notably lacking an enforcement mechanism.  Typically, a beneficiary of a trust can take legal action against a trustee who does not administer the trust according to its terms.  Former probate code §15212 did not allow anyone to enforce the terms on behalf of a pet.  

A New Beginning

However, effective January 1, 2009, the legislature became a lawyer’s best friend when former probate code §15212 was repealed and replaced by a new version.  Under the latest version, if drafted correctly, the trust would allow enforcement by any person who is interested in the welfare of the animal.  

Thus a new type of planning was born.  Animal lovers can rest assured that if they should become incapacitated or worse, their companion animals will continue to receive the same love and care they have become accustomed to. 

Start on a pet trust today. Call my office so we can plan for the future or fill out a message form.

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