I love my pets. They are members of my family. I know many others that feel the same way and want to make sure that their four-legged, feathered, or finned friends are cared for in their absence.
Pets are considered personal property under the law. If pets are not mentioned in a will, they pass to your heirs in the same way as any other personal property. Your family may have no choice but to bring fluffy to a shelter, leaving your treasured pet homeless or worse yet, euthanized.
Proper planning can ensure that your furry family members are cared for in your absence. Identify and appoint someone to care for your animals. Speak to the person you choose to make sure that they will step up and handle any special needs your pets may have. Refer to your pets generally and not by name, so you don’t have to update the will when you get a new animal. Consider setting aside money for the care of your pets, especially if they have special needs.
Florida law allows you to create a trust for the care of an animal, which terminates upon the death of the animal. One can name a person to oversee a pet’s new owners and any funds set aside for the care of the pet.
Florida Statutes 736.0408, Trust for care of an animal (2009):
(1) 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, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal.
(2) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.
(3) Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to the intended use of the property, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise as part of the settlor’s estate
You can also specify other ways you want your pets to be included in your will. Every will I create has a section on burial or funeral arrangements. In that section, one may direct the personal representative to have the ashes of a deceased pet be buried with the owner or spread in a particular place.
If you have any specific questions, please contact me.
Lesly C. Longa is an attorney helping Floridians with estate planning and civil litigation. She has a JD from Boston University and is licensed to practice law in three states. Please note that the information provided here is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, consult with an attorney.