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The basics of estate planning includes planning for the transfer of your estate to others during life, at death or after death, and planning for incapacity.  But can an estate plan include your pet?  YES!  However, assets cannot be left directly to pets, since animals are still considered property under the law, but you can care for your animal companions in a few different ways:

  • Designate an animal shelter that they are to go to upon your death and where they will be cared for their life or given to a nice family
  • Give them to a friend or family member and hope for the best
  • Designate a caregiver to care for them and a trustee to handle funds for their care which funds remain in trust for the life of your animal companion

In California, you can establish a trust for the care of your pet.  You may want to choose a caregiver and trustee that share your level of devotion and concern for your pets.  Under the law, your pet trust is enforceable by a person designated in the trust, a person appointed by the court, any person interested in the welfare of the animal, or any nonprofit charity that is involved with animal welfare.

Selecting a caregiver for your pet is analogous to selecting a guardian for your children.  The ideal candidate for selecting a caregiver for your pet is someone who knows and loves your pet, who can provide a stable home, and who is willing to assume the responsibilities of caring for your pet.  The trust terminates upon the death of the pet and the balance is distributed to the remainder beneficiaries.  You should carefully consider who the remainder beneficiaries should be and if the caregiver should also be one of those beneficiaries.

If you are considering establishing an estate plan for yourself, whether or not you wish to include a trust for your pet, the attorneys at Schneiders & Associates can help!  Please contact us today.

By: Roy Schneider, Esq.

About the Author
Theodore J. Schneider practices in the areas of business and corporate transactions, employment law counseling, municipal and public law, real estate and land use, and homeowner associations. Ted began his legal career in 2002 when he joined the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, L.L.P. before relocating to Ventura County to join his father in practice.