You Have Planned for Your Estate and Family, But What About Your Pets When You Pass Away

By Anthony J. Dimora, Florida Estate Planning Attorney

Let us be honest, our pets are our family, and we want to make sure they are taken care of today, tomorrow and always. Good news—Fla. Stat. 736.0408 allows pet owners to establish a specific trust for the care of fifi, fido, fluffy, tweetie etc.

What is a Pet Trust?

When preparing your estate plan with your attorney, you may want to consider including a pet trust to protect your beloved pet family member(s) as well. A pet trust is one option for pet owners who want to provide for their pets after the owner passes away. Other options may include, but are not limited to, contractual arrangements with a caregiver or honorary bequests made through a valid Florida Last Will and Testament.

One of the big differences between designating who will physically receive your pet in your Last Will and Testament versus establishing a pet trust is important. For example, the person you identify in your Last Will and Testament to receive your pet is under no legal obligation to keep or care for your pet. However, with a pet trust, the trustee, and the trustee’s successors you appoint in your pet trust have a legal duty to carry out your instructions and wishes so you can ensure that your pet’s future and wellbeing will be safe and secure.

You may ask yourself, what types of instructions should I include in my pet trust regarding the care of my pet? Well, below is a list of some, but by no means all instructions you may wish to provide:

  • Daily food and diet routines;
  • Preferred toys;
  • Crating or uncrating;
  • Grooming;
  • Daily walks and socialization;
  • Preferred veterinarian, hospital and other medical care;
  • Kennels and pet sitter preferences;
  • Compensation, if any, for the trustee and/or caretaker;
  • Liability insurance;
  • How to handle end of life arrangements.

In the end, estate planning is all about planning and caring for everyone you love after you pass, even your pets.

About the Author

Anthony J. Dimora, Esq. is Partner in charge of the Marco Island office of Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. He is licensed to practice law in both Ohio and Florida. He focuses his law practice in the areas of estate planning, probate, real estate and corporate matters.