by Estate Planning Attorney Nydia Menendez
As an estate planning attorney, I understand the value of protecting our loved ones. And as a passionate pet owner, I believe that protection must also extend to our four-legged family members as well. That’s why, when clients have fur babies in their families, I offer a comprehensive (and complimentary) Pet Trust for that family.
For many of us, our pets are part of our family, much like a child. Yet, we see many plans (not prepared by our firm) which fail to address what will happen to the family pets. And when we raise the question to our clients, many simply assume that other family members will take over the responsibility of owning a pet. Sometimes family members are not willing to take care of your pet; or, they may be unable to do so because they live in an apartment complex or community that does not allow pets; perhaps they simply don’t want to do it. If any of these scenarios are possible, this is when a Pet Trust can save the day.
For a long time, Florida law did not provide pet owners with estate planning tools to protect their pets. Fortunately, this changed in 2002, when the Florida statutes allowed Pet Trusts. A Pet Trust is a legal document that becomes part of your estate plan, which that establishes who will take care of your pet and what type of maintenance your pet will receive in the event that you become disabled or pass away.
There are three important details that you need to know before creating a Pet Trust:
- The Trustee is in charge of the trust, but another person can have the custody and care of your pet. This means that the person you appoint as the trustee of the Pet Trust does not need to be the same person that will be taking care of your pet when you pass away. In other words, you can separate the function of managing the assets you set aside for the care of your pet from the function of providing care for and having actual possession of your pet. This set up can provide oversight to ensure that the funds set aside in your trust are actually being used to pay for your pets’ care.
- Only pets living at the time of your death can benefit from a Florida Pet Trust. In other words, only pets alive during the trustor’s lifetime can be trust beneficiaries. This means that animals cannot be added to the trust after you die.
- Money in the trust that exceeds the pet’s needs will be distributed: Unless the trust documents state otherwise, if the amount in the trust is more than needed to pay for the pet’s care, it will be distributed either as part of the settlor’s estate or to the settlor himself/herself if living. For this reason, we always ask our clients to let us know what they would like to see happen with any excess funds.
If your pets mean as much to you as mine do to me, let’s talk about how to make sure their needs will be met, no matter what the future holds.
How Can You Get Started with Your Estate Plan?
If you want to learn more about how to plan for your future to make sure you remain in control of your decisions while leaving a lasting legacy for your family, then we invite you to call our office at (954) 963-7220 to speak with a member of the Menéndez Law Firm. You may also want to watch the video series on our YouTube channel where we talk about Estate Planning in detail. Or if you would like to join us for the next live Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning webinar on Zoom you can register at no charge on our website www.menendezlawfirm.com
Estate Planning Attorney
Menéndez Law Firm
2699 Stirling Road, Suite B200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Tel.: (954) 963-7220
Fax: (954) 963-7232