Did You Know That You Can Include Your Pets in Your Estate Plan in California?

It’s true.  Sometimes referred to as “companion animals”, California Probate Code §15212 specifically provides for the creation of a trust to care for your beloved dog, cat or other companion animal after you pass.

An “animal” is defined as a “domestic or pet animal” (California Probate Code §15212(i))…. could be a horse or pot-bellied pig so long as it can fit the definition.

Per the statute, any money left for the care of the animal can only be used for the animal’s care; not for the benefit of the trustee (California Probate Code §15212(b)(1)).  Further, when the trust terminates (presumably after the passing of the animal), the remaining money goes in accordance with the terms of the trust or in accordance with a residuary clause in the decedent’s will (California Probate Code §(b)(2)).

There are enforcement provisions in the statute as well; beneficiaries who would be entitled to the funds if the animal were deceased can demand and receive accountings.  This provision for an accounting can also be enforced by “any nonprofit charitable corporation that has as its principal activity the care of animals” .  There is, however, a rule that if the amount of money is $40,000.00 or less, there is no accounting required simply because of the existence of the trust (California Probate Code §15212(e)).

In addition, any person designated by the trust, interested in the welfare of the animal or a nonprofit can enforce the trust, to make sure that the money set aside for the animal is used for that purpose (California Probate Code §15212(c)).

There is also a provision that any beneficiary, person designated by the trust, the court, or nonprofit charitable corporation that has as its principal activity the care of animals may inspect the animal to determine that the purposes of the trust are being carried out as required by the trust (California Probate Code §15212(f)).

Such is the love of Californians for their companion animals.