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Pet Trusts in Florida

Have you given any thought to providing for your pet in case you die? If you are an animal lover, there is a good chance that at some point you will outlive your animal(s). Luckily in Florida we have a statute on point to allow you to pre-plan for your pets.

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You may assume that your friends or family will give a home to your pet after you pass. However, your neighbors may have their own pets, or have a spouse who is allergic to dogs or cats. Your kids may live too far away from you to easily move your animals to their home. Or they might live in a pet-restricted building.
With a little thought and planning you can make provision for your pets. Ask the friend or relative you “assume” will want to take the animal in question. Have an open and frank discussion to make sure they feel the way you assume they do. That will allow you time to develop a Plan B.

Florida’s Pet Trust law is codified in Florida Statutes Section 736.0408. The law allows you to set up a trust for an animal or animals alive during your lifetime. You can leave cash (to pay for feeding, medical care, toys, etc.) You may name a trustee and back-ups to your first choice. A court can also appoint someone if none of your nominees is available or able to perform the duties. You can also leave all the pet’s gear such as beds, feeding bowls, toys, leashes and any other items to maintain or amuse the animal.

Florida’s law allows the court discretion to determine if the value of the trust property exceeds the need of the animals covered. If so, the law allows for the court to reduce the amount of the pet trust and distribute those “excess funds” to the estate of the decedent. With this limit in mind, I would not encourage someone with millions in assets to leave all their estate to their pets. We encourage pet lovers to think of a reasonable amount in light of the ordinary annual expenses and allowing for unforeseen medical complications. Some prefer to name a dollar amount per pet, but with provision that any one pet who needs it may use funds from other’s allotments if all their own is depleted. We even had one situation where two pets went to a good friend, but one very large breed dog would go to a friend with a dog-boarding facility. In that case, we set up two different pet trusts, one for the smaller dogs and one for the large dog.

Clients who have created a pet trust describe the advantages: knowing that someone they trust will be there to care for their pet; less guilt over imposing a financial burden; the frank discussion over who could and would want to have room in their home and life for the care of the pets. It can all add up to peace of mind.

As part of our holistic approach to Elder Law, we believe that pet trusts are an important element to layer in with the other planning we are facilitating. A pet lover cannot be truly at ease without making a provision for those dependents who cannot speak for themselves. If you would like to explore creation of a Florida pet trust, Call us today at 239-434-8557.