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For many people, it is hard imagine life without their favorite pets, whether they are cats, dogs or even birds. While an owner’s love for their pet is certainly genuine, they may not plan for who (or how) a pet should be cared for in the event they cannot do so.

Because of this, pet care should be a topic of estate planning whenever a person is preparing a will for themselves, or helping a loved one organize their affairs. As we have noted in a number of our posts, you don’t have to be Leona Helmsley to set the affairs of your pet in the event you pass away. (For those who don’t know who Leona Helmsley is, she left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, in her will). 

In fact, since that famous case, more people have incorporated pet care trusts as part of their estate plans. A pet trust, like other trusts, allows an animal owner to set up an entity that cares for the animal in the manner set forth in the trust documents. This may include, but is not limited to, where the pet will live, who is responsible for paying medical bills and registration fees, as well as any stipends allowed for caretakers.

In fact, a majority of the states in the U.S. (including California) have laws honoring pet trusts. Considering that hundreds of thousands of pets each year are abandoned because of an owner’s death or incapacity, pet trusts serve a vital purpose in keeping innocent animals safe.

The preceding is not legal advice. If you have questions about pet trusts, an experienced estate planning attorney can help.