David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

Pet trusts are a loving legacy

The thought of losing a beloved pet is almost too difficult for most people to bear. However, few pet owners consider what may happen if their animal companions should outlive them. Countless pets end up in shelters and worse when their owners pass away without establishing a plan for the care of their pets. Fortunately, thorough estate plans can include trusts to provide for surviving pets.

Florida and most other states consider pets in the same category as property. As painful as it may be for animal lovers, a pet has the same legal status as a sofa or a lamp, so a pet parent cannot leave money to a pet in a will. It is also not wise to leave a pet to a friend or family member in a will because there is nothing to legally bind that person to caring for the pet as the owner desires.

With a pet trust, however, the owner can stipulate the kind of care and attention the pet should receive from the caregiver, including vet appointments, grooming, walks and exercise, and the brand of food the owner prefers to feed the animal. The pet owner can choose a caregiver and assign a trustee, who will manage the distribution of the trust's funds and oversee the care of the animal. Then the owner can fund the trust with an appropriate amount of money to last the life expectancy of the pet.

Since some animals can outlive their owners by decades, leaving no plan for their care can condemn them to a cruel and uncertain future. With a pet trust, a pet parent can have the peace of mind that the animal is in good hands. Those in Florida with questions about how to provide for their pets through trusts can gain information from an experienced attorney.

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