The pets we keep are as varied as are the people of Los Angeles. With that in mind, consider the life span of various types of pets we might have (in years according to the Humane Society): hamster, 1-3 years; goldfish, 5-10; rabbit, 8-12; dog, 10-15; cat, 15-20; horse 40; catfish 60; parrot, 50-80; swan 100 and box turtles live to be about 123 years old. If a human being lives to be 70 to 80 years old, there is a good chance that some of these pets could survive their owners. Then what?
For those with multiple pets, and those with long-lived pets, a pet trust could be an answer. According to reliable sources, nearly all fifty states have passed some form of pet trust legislation that enables people to engage in estate planning to set up a pet trust.
The way a pet trust is structured depends upon the person and the pet or pets.
One option is to provide a specific amount of money for the care of a pet, and bequest it to someone who would be the new pet owner. Of course this should be discussed ahead of time with the new pet owner. If you give a nephew money for Fluffy’s care, and the nephew has Fluffy put to sleep that would not be a good outcome.
Another option is a pet trust which includes instructions and resources to ensure a pet or pets are provided for the rest of their lives. For example, it could state that Bowser has half an hour of off-leash playtime each day. Or that Fluffy is never declawed.
As with any estate planning option, it is a good idea to use an experienced estate planning professional to set it up, and to discuss the estate planning desired outcomes with others who may be impacted such as a trustee, the heirs or in this case, the new owner of a pet or pets.
Source: Examiner, “Can you trust your pet?“, Peggy Hoyt, Dec. 11, 2012