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What Happens to My Pets When I Die? Florida Pet Trusts

Many people consider their pets to be an integral and indispensable part of their families. For that reason, many people want to ensure their beloved dog, cat, horse, or other animal will be provided for in the event of their death. Pets are considered tangible personal property in Florida, and can be devised, so in the absence of a specific bequest, your pets will go to whomever you have designated to receive your tangible personal property.

For many people, such an arrangement is fine, but some people may want to ensure that their pets are taken care of after they are gone, and for those people, a pet trust may be appropriate. A pet trust is a legal mechanism that specifies and arranges for how your pet would be taken care of and financially provided for should you become incapacitated or die. In Florida, Fla. Stat. § 736.0408 enables the creation of a pet trust.

Establishing a pet trust is very similar to establishing any other type of trust. You should appoint a trustee and a potential successor trustee who would be responsible for the care and disbursement of funds for the pet’s care. Additionally, in the interest of conservation, you should have a remainder beneficiary that would receive any leftover funds if the trust is not depleted when the pet dies. It may be wise to ensure the caregiver and the remainder beneficiary are not the same person, as to avoid any incentive to not care for your pet.

Pet trusts could account for routine veterinary checks, emergency veterinary care, grooming costs, feeding costs, boarding costs, end of life care, and burial or cremation arrangements of your preference. When creating the terms of a pet trust, you may want to consider the following: your pet’s current standard of living, the level of care you expect the caregiver to give your pet, your pet’s life expectancy, and the likelihood of your pet developing serious health issues.

Pet trusts are an example of the creativity and uniqueness some estate plans have. If you have a unique request for the disposition of your property, assets, heirlooms or real estate portfolios at your death, you should consider consulting an estate planning attorney to explore the possibilities. Those interested in learning more about pet trusts should not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys of Chepenik Trushin LLP, who are ready, willing, and able to assist you with your estate planning, guardianship and probate litigation needs. Bart Chepenik, 305-613-3548, Brad Trushin, 305-981-8889.

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