Roughly sixty-eight percent of American households own a pet. Since most pet lifespans are shorter than the average human, many people will own several pets during their lifetime. So when it comes to estate planning, who’s going to take care of the cat may be the last thing on a person’s mind. However, providing for the care of animals is an important step when planning for the future.

Florida law provides for the creation of pet trusts. Previously, some owners would use a will to leave their pets to a friend or family member, and possibly designate funds for the pets’ care.

However, with the advent of pet trusts, owners’ wishes can be more specific and more easily enforced.

A trusted individual should be selected to administer the trust; under the law, a trust protector can also be appointed. The pet trust protector ensures the terms of the trust are followed and may remove a trustee if he is not fulfilling his duties. The trust should lay out an owner’s wishes for the residence, daily care, and any special needs of the pets. The trust should also specify what should happen with a pet’s remains when it dies. If a person has more than one pet, the trust will last until the last pet dies, or funds are exhausted.

One of the few drawbacks of a pet trust may be that such instruments are not recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. Therefore, upon the trustmaker’s death, the funds will be taxed as part of the gross estate. Provisions should be made for the payment of any applicable estate taxes.

To many owners, pets are like family members and should be provided for as such. Anyone interested in adding a pet trust to his or her estate plan should consult an experienced South Florida trusts and estates attorney.