Bay Area Estate And Tax Planning Law Firm

Protecting your pets through estate planning

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Estate planning in California can be complicated. Things like children, assets, home ownership, businesses and more can make it even more complex. Even pet ownership can add great headaches to the process. Overall, these are all things that must be considered while the estate holder is still alive.

Pets and poor estate planning

Pets present some unique challenges to estate planning in California. For many people, their pets are like children. They may fear that the welfare of their pet animals may not be taken into account by a heartless judicial system or even uncaring heirs. It certainly can cause some heartache for those that love their pets. Overall, pet owners should be concerned with avoiding the following scenarios:

  • the pet becoming property of the state
  • the pet being donated to an animal shelter and then destroyed
  • the pet being neglected or even “lost” by an uncaring heir

If your estate enters intestate succession, your pet ending up in a shelter is a very good possibility. Since California shelters destroy animals, your pet will then have a high likelihood of eventually being destroyed. Even if it ends up with an heir, avoiding this fate may be impossible unless you exert more control over your estate planning.

Protecting your pets through estate planning

Thankfully, you can take steps to avoid this horrific outcome by denying the government or your heirs the ability to disregard the well-being of your pets. This can be done by including guidelines in your will that explicitly state how an heir should take care of the pet. While you cannot actually leave money to a pet since pets are not legally recognized that way in California, you can give money to an heir with instruction that it should be used for the pet. Enforcing this will be hard if not impossible, so ensure that you trust that heir.

Alternatively, you could give the pet to an organization that will care for it like a pet rescue. Lastly, you can create a pet trust. This is probably the safer choice if you are that concerned about ensuring your pet’s safety. The pet and money with instructions for care will be placed into a trust. If the caretaker fails to follow the instructions, they can be sued.