Some California residents who are creating an estate plan may want to consider making provisions for their pets as well. Pets are legally considered to be property, and without a plan for them, they could be sent to a shelter. Including pets in your estate plan means that you can have the peace of mind of knowing they will be safe even if something happens to you.
Using a will
You can use a will to identify who you want to inherit your pets just as you would with any other property, but there are a couple of potential drawbacks to this approach. One is that it does not take into account what happens to your pets if you become incapacitated. The other is that there is not really any legal oversight regarding what happens to the pets or any money you may leave for their care.
Trusts and pet protection agreements
Perhaps the most secure solution for your pets involves creating a trust. You can place money in the trust to cover their care over their lifetime and specify what should happen to any remaining funds. You can then appoint a trustee and a caretaker. While this can be the same person, having one to manage the funds and the other the pet’s care may be more secure. Another option is a pet protection agreement, which falls under contract rather than estate law. The contract is between you and the person you choose as caretaker. It may be permanent or it might be temporary in nature, covering a short period of incapacity.
Whatever approach you choose, be sure to leave detailed instructions as well about the kind of care your pet requires and any necessary medical information. As with other aspects of estate planning, you should review your plans for your pets periodically and consider whether any changes are necessary.