Why Trusts Are The Favored Option For Your Four-Legged Friends

By Leah A. Foertsch December 16, 2019Estate & Trust Law

Pets are as loved as any other member of a family these days. Although our pets can’t inherit money, you can protect them if they outlive you. There are two main considerations when planning for your pets in the event of your death or incapacity: placement and financial support. The structure for this care can be handled by way of a Last Will and Testament or a Trust. Through the Last Will and Testament, you can provide direction regarding care, as well as an outright gift to the caregiver. However, the Will is only effective at your death and you have to trust the caregiver to follow your directions without being bound to do so. The preferred method, and the one to be addressed most extensively herein, is the Trust.

By use of a Trust, you can provide for continuity of care upon your disability, incapacity, unavailability, or death. The Trust provides mechanisms to ensure the money left is used for your stated purpose, and detailed instructions regarding your intentions can be communicated. Generally, a pet trust is valid for the life of the pet (or the last surviving pet, if more than one). The properly drafted Trust provisions will cover primary and alternate caregivers, directions regarding day-to-day care as well as extraordinary care, and final disposition of the pet.

The caregiving function can be separated from the financial management of the Trust assets, and it is often advisable to appoint one person as caregiver and a separate person as trustee. The chosen caregiver should be someone who will provide the same day-to-day care and affection as the pet is accustomed to receiving. Therefore, it is important to consider whether the caregiver is capable and in a position to do so. For instance, if your chosen caregiver already has a dog, and your dog is not suitable for a multi-pet household, perhaps you should reconsider. Successor caregivers should be included in the Trust, in the event your first appointee is unable to fulfill his duties.

Your chosen trustee will be responsible for managing and distributing the trust assets to the caregiver. The trustee is a fiduciary and must act responsibly in carrying out your expressed wishes. Once again, it is vitally important to be as specific and as clear as possible in outlining your wishes and objectives, with respect to your pet’s care and comfort, including specific information regarding veterinary care and intervention. If the value of the property left to care for the pet exceeds the amount required (as determined by the court), the excess property will be distributed back to you or to your estate.

In order to ensure your appointees comply with your wishes, a trust protector can be appointed. The trust protector has the authority to enforce and ensure the property left through the pet trust is properly handled and spent to carry out your wishes, and can remove a non-performing trustee.

If you have not considered your pets in your estate plan, now may be a good time to do so. If you would like further information, please contact PLDO Senior Counsel Leah A. Foertsch in our Florida office at 561-362-2030 or email lfoertsch@pldolaw.com.




Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only. This blog is not legal advice and you should not use or rely on it as such. By reading this blog or our website, no attorney-client relationship is created. We do not provide legal advice to anyone except clients of the firm who have formally engaged us in writing to do so. This blog post may be considered attorney advertising in certain jurisdictions. The jurisdictions in which we practice license lawyers in the general practice of law, but do not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.


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Leah A. Foertsch is Senior Counsel with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC and a member of the Estate and Trust Planning, Administration and Litigation Team. Her practice focuses on advising individuals and families in all areas of trust and estate planning and probate administration. In addition, she has extensive experience in representing individuals and businesses in asset protection, wealth management and tax strategies, and has managed multimillion-dollar real estate transactions, including structuring deals and providing title insurance for both commercial and residential properties. Attorney Foertsch also works with businesses on their succession planning strategies and has advised clients regarding the best structure to meet their needs and goals. Previously, she managed the estate planning and real estate practice for the Palm Beach Gardens office of a multi-state law firm, where she also handled the representation of fiduciaries in all aspects of probate administration. As a community volunteer and civic servant, Attorney Foertsch has contributed her time, talent and resources to a number of nonprofit and municipal organizations. Since 2014, she has served on the Lake Worth Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and Cultural Renaissance Foundation, and had been a member of the Boynton Beach Planning and Zoning Board (2007 through 2011). Her nonprofit work has included volunteering on the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League C2Z, the Town of Palm Beach United Way Allocations Committee and as a mentor for the Children’s Home Society Project 18. For over a decade, she served as a lecturer at St. Thomas University in Miami, teaching bar preparation seminars and workshops on Florida business entities. She was an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University from 2010 to 2011. Attorney Foertsch earned her J.D. from St. Thomas University School of Law, her Master of Laws in Taxation from the University of Miami School of Law, and her undergraduate degree in sociology from Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. She is licensed to practice in Florida and is a member of the Florida Bar, Tax and Real Property, Probate and Trust sections. To contact Attorney Foertsch, call 561-362-2030 or email lfoertsch@pldolaw.com.

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