Saturday, August 13, 2022
Estate Planning 101: Estate Planning for Your Pet
By Attorney Marlene S. Cooper
Published April 26, 2013

You may have heard of a case a couple of years ago in which a very wealthy lady left several million dollars for the care of her pet.  While some think such a thing is absurd, it is a fact that some people are very fond of their dogs, cats, horses or other pets.  If you have a pet you really care for, you might consider making some provisions for your pet in the event you are unable to care for it yourself.  Some people have taken the trouble of making their wishes known concerning care of their pet in their will; however, if they are suddenly incapacitated such provisions in a will are of no use.  Provisions in a will are only effective upon death.  Pet advocates recommend that concerned pet owners have a trust that will provide for the pet immediately if the pet owner becomes seriously ill or incapacitated.  The trust can also provide for the pet in the event of the owner’s death.

There are basically two ways you can provide for your pet through a trust.  The first way is to set up a traditional living trust for all of your property and make special arrangements for your pet by setting up a subtrust for the pet.  In the subtrust you can designate who the pet’s caretaker will be in case you are unable to care for your pet or if you pass away.  The caretaker can be a friend who also happens to love the pet or it can be a commercial facility such as a “pet hotel”.  You can also set aside a designated amount of money to be used for the pet’s care, including medical needs and or burial, as well as a salary for the pet’s caretaker.  Usually the trust stipulates that when the pet passes away, any money left in the pet’s subtrust will go to either an individual or to a charity.


If you don’t have or need a traditional living trust you can establish a trust which only covers the care of your pet.  You establish a “pet trust” and transfer ownership of your pet to the trust along with funds to take care of the pet.  You then name the caretaker who will take care of the pet as the beneficiary of the trust.  To make sure your wishes are carried out, you designate as trustee someone to watch over the caretaker and the expenditure of funds.  When the pet dies, the trust is terminated and any remaining funds will go to whomever you designate.  © 2013 by Marlene S. Cooper.  All rights reserved.  (Marlene S. Cooper, a graduate of UCLA, has been an attorney for over 30 years.  Her practice is focused entirely on estate planning, estate administration and probate.  You may obtain further information at, by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at (626) 791-7530 or toll free at (866) 702-7600.  The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice.  Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).



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