If I die, how can I protect my pet in Florida?

To many persons, their dog, cat or other pet is like part of the family. More and more, people desire to make arrangements for the care of their pet through their estate plan. A trust can be set up through which the pet's needs can be addressed.

Under traditional common law, an inheritance could only be left to a person or an organization (such as a charity). Animals could not receive an inheritance. However, as pets became increasingly popular and their owners wished to provide for them, states have passed legislation allowing for trusts for animals-commonly referred to as a "Pet Trust."

In Florida, we have Section 736.0408, Fla. Stat. which provides that a Trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal. However, there are a few requirements. First, the animal must be alive when the Trust is established by the owner. Second, the Trust must terminate on the death of the animal or, if the Trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal, on the death of the last surviving animal. Third, the property in the Trust may be applied only to the intended use of the property, i.e. the care of the animal(s).

Of note in establishing a Pet Trust, the property in the Trust may only be used to provide for the pet. To the extent the court determines that the value of the Trust property exceeds the amount required for pet's care, the balance must be distributed to the owner or if deceased, to the beneficiaries.

Preparation of a Pet Trust should be done through an experienced estate planning attorney.

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