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What Happens to my Pet if I Die?

Here’s the scenario: wealthy older woman drafts her will, and in it leaves her fortune to her cats for their lifetime, after which the money goes to the Butler. The Butler, not willing to wait that long, seeks to remove the cats from the equation, hence becoming next in line to inherit the wealthy woman’s fortune. While great for a Disney film, in Florida this could never happen, because animals are considered property, they cannot inherit money or property. So what happens to your pet if you die?!? Florida law has provided an option: A PET TRUST.

Many people consider their pets family, yet if not provided for after their deaths, pets can be discarded like trash. Florida Statute § 736.0408 was passed in 2004, and it states that a trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or on the death of the last surviving animal.

There are 5 basic pieces of information that you need in order for a proper pet trust to be drafted:

1. Identification: breed, DOB, age, and any paperwork that may help identify the pet/ chip registration numbers. This may include adoption paperwork or breeding records.

2. Veterinary information and medical history: Leave clear directions regarding medications and where they’re ordered/purchased from, special dietary requirements, and the name and office location for the veterinarian who has your pet’s medical records.

3. Caregiver: Designate whom will be your pets caregiver, including a couple backups. Make sure they know and consent to taking on the challenge should anything happen to you, and that they will provide loving care just as you would.

4. Paperwork: this is the actual trust documentation; remember, you cannot necessarily leave a gift to your pet in your will. Clearly outline your wishes regarding your pet, and make sure an experienced attorney reviews and/or draft. Additionally, make sure someone has copies of this documentation, so you can be sure it will see the sunlight in the case of your demise.

5. The Caregiver chosen may not necessarily be where the pet lives, albeit this would be ideal. But many people choose to board their pets in doggy day cares, long term pet resort/hotels, etc. Make sue this agreement is clear, executed by all parties, and have a backup plan in case the chosen facility changes owner ship.

No one likes to think about the realities of death but loving your pet and making sure that he/she/they are cared for long term is an important and selfless decision, which may save many headaches in the future.