For you and many other Californians, your pets are members of your family. However, the law does not see it that way, meaning that you cannot simply leave your property to your animals in your will. Instead, pets are viewed as property themselves. This does not mean you will be unable to have your beloved pet’s needs cared for if Max or Fluffy outlive you.
The answer may be as simple as leaving your pet to another family member in your will. Ideally, you would want to check with your relative first to be sure he or she agrees to the responsibility. However, like most pet owners, you may have specific details, routines and needs to attend to with your pet. A pet trust may be a better choice.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pet trusts allow you to address nearly any need or wish you or your animals might have. Does your dog have a sensitive stomach and can only eat a certain brand of food to avoid getting sick? Does your cat need medication twice a day? Do you have a preferred walking and grooming schedule for your pup, and what is your veterinarian’s information? You can address all of these concerns in your pet trust.
You will also want to designate a first and second choice of caregiver for your pets, after discussing it with them first. As with other types of trust and will planning, it is advisable to consult with an estate planning attorney and remember that this information is for educational purposes only.