Pet trusts are not the same, for good reason

California law now recognizes a pet or pet care trust as a legal purpose. A pet trust protects the pet, but is the trust protected from the heirs? Mark W. Bidwell, Esq. Suggests that pet owners consider three options; Educational pet trusts, pop-up pet trusts, and stealth pet trusts.

An educational pet trust has, within the typical trust or will, instructions on caring for the pet, the person who will provide the care, and possibly an amount of money to give to the caregiver. There really is no control, just instructions on who will provide the care and how and the amount of money available for the care of the pet. This kind of “trust” is strictly on the honor system.

An educational pet trust is appropriate when the pet owner relies on a relative or friend to provide proper care and all persons who will receive property or who have the potential to receive property from the will or trust will not challenge the trust or the testament.

A Springing Pet Trust is created upon the death of the pet owner according to the instructions found within a typical trust or will document. All assets in the trust are distributed to the human beneficiaries, except for a specific amount of money that remains in the trust for the care of the pet. Upon the death of the pet, the remaining assets of the trust are distributed to the heirs as directed by the trust. Beneficiaries will be aware of the pet trust because California law requires that they be notified of the pet owner’s death.

This type of trust is appropriate when the pet owner wants control, but there is also no concern of family discord or litigation on the part of the trust’s heirs.

A Stealth Pet Trust is a separate trust document distinct from any other trust or will. It is created when the person is alive. Stealth Pet Trust has its own assets. The beneficiary who will receive the assets after the death of the pet is a charity. A logical charity would be one that cares for the pet, such as a no-kill shelter or rescue society.

Because there are no human heirs who have a potential interest in the trust, no one is noticed. The trust operates in secret. This type of trust is appropriate when there is concern about litigation or family discord between the heirs due to the bequest for the benefit of the pet.

The main things to consider for pet trusts are:

1. Who or what entity will have the duty to care
2. Who will be the designated person to supervise the pet’s care?
3. Who can challenge trust
4. Dollar amount to be set aside for care. If the value of the assets in the trust does not exceed $ 40,000, no separate filing, reporting, recording, periodic accounting, or fund maintenance is required.

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