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How can I ensure my pets in California are cared for after I die?

When pets are a part of the family, taking care of them if something happens to you is probably one of the top priorities on your list. While it might be possible for some people to rely on family members, that isn't always possible. California residents have another option -- a pet trust.

What is a pet trust?

A pet trust is a legal arrangement that provides the funds and instructions necessary to care for a pet or pets when you die. Any pet, such as cats, dogs, fish and other animals can be provided for in a pet trust. The pet trust should name the person who is to care for the pets. If nobody is named to care for the pets, the court can appoint a person to care for them in accordance with the trust. The person who cares for the pets is called the trustee.

How long does the pet trust last?

A pet trust lasts until the death of the pet. If the pet trust includes the care of more than one pet, the trust doesn't end until all pets covered under the trust have died.

What happens to money left in the trust?

California provides very specific directions for how these funds are distributed. If you put instructions for the distribution of remaining funds in the trust, that is what will happen. If you don't have that information in the trust, the state stipulates how the funds will be distributed. Making sure you understand how the remaining funds will be distributed might help you to decide what, if anything, to put in the trust.

Source: Michigan State University, "West's Annotated California Codes" Oct. 29, 2014

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