Q: Aren’t animals just property and can’t I simply discard them in my trust?
As sole beneficiary and successor trustee, executor, to my mother’s revocable living trust, there are provisions within her revocable trust, Pet Trust, that requires that I care for her dog, Gunner and her cat, Otis. I know nothing about caring for animals nor do I have any interest in doing so.
These two animals could live for another 10 years each and I have no intention of being their Zookeeper. An estate worth over $6 million, as sole beneficiary, I must now become a Zookeeper when I should be looking out for myself and my future. Isn’t there a way I can have this trust provision ignored or waived and send these two animals to the County dog pound for adoption? I don’t like animals yet alone do I know how to care for them. And I don’t like the idea of throwing money away on something that provides no benefit to me.
Fortunately, for Gunner and Otis, animals are protected in Florida and every state in the US including the District of Columbia. Approximately 70% of all households in America, like your mother, own one or more pets. She and people like her think of pets as little people with hair or fur. Most likely, your mother loved Gunner and Otis every bit as much as she loved you.
But there are provisions within the law whereby you can have the animals transferred to a different guardian, although you and the guardian must comply with the designated care set forth within your mother’s trust.
If you are a pet owner, no doubt you want the best for your pet. But what will happen if you are no longer able to care for your pets due to your incapacity or death? Who will take custody of these beloved pets and provide them the same level of care that you provided?
How can you make your wishes known to those who will care for your pets? How can you provide funds and directions to assist in day-to-day care issues or death decisions for your pets? As of 2016, all 50 states including the District of Columbia/Washington DC enacted Pet Trust Laws.
Florida Statutes provides that a trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal. The executor of an estate may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.
Ask any wounded warrior or a friend who has a hairy companion and they will all tell you that they have the best dog in the world. “None of them are wrong.” If you have a pet, be sure you include Pet Trust provisions in your trust for them once you depart this world.
Kristen Jackson is the founding partner of Jackson Law P.A. (407-363-9020). She is experienced in estate planning, real estate law, business, and contract law. Her firm has earned an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell signifying the highest level of professional excellence as obtained through opinions from members of the bar and judiciary. For more information, visit www.JacksonFloridaRealtor.com