While countless people living in places like Miami, Florida, would agree that the family pet is exactly that, the law has yet to recognize animals as anything but property. That's why it's incredibly important that pet owners account for the future of their furry and feathered friends in the event they are no longer able to care for them themselves. Creating pet trusts can help to ensure that animals are well taken care of at all times.
Despite the fact that almost 70 percent of American households are graced by the presence of pets, it's estimated that less than 10 percent of pet owners account for animals in their estate planning. And given that Florida state laws consider animals to be property, pet owners cannot include pets in their wills directly.
One legal option that many pet owners are turning to is establishing a trust for their pets. The practice is established in 46 states, and accounts for the care and well-being of animals in the event that their owner is incapacitated or passes away.
Establishing a pet trust allows pet owners to maintain control over the care of their animals long into the future, since the pet owner identifies someone they can count on to act as the pet's trustee. It's the responsibility of the trustee to act on the pet owner's directives, serving as the animal's advocate and caretaker in some cases.
When designating a pet trustee, it's important to not only inform them of their role and responsibilities involved in caring for one's animal but also to appoint a successor. It's also recommended that pet owners explain how any funds in the trust should be used after the animal passes away.
Source: Wall Street Journal, More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills, Anne Tergesen, Jan. 12, 2014