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Can I Leave Assets to my Pet in Florida?

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Florida law allows a Florida decedent to leave assets for the benefit of a pet, in a pet trust.

Florida statute Section 736.0408 allows for the creation of a trust for the benefit of a pet.  The statute provides:

736.0408 Trust for care of an animal.

(1) A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal.
(2) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.
(3) Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to the intended use of the property, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise as part of the settlor’s estate.

Some planning ideas for making the best use of a Pet Trust:

  • Make sure the identity of the pet is clear in the trust instrument.
  • Identify a suitable trustee to administer the Pet Trust.
  • Fund the Pet Trust with an appropriate amount of assets – enough to provide for the pet, but not so much that other beneficiaries of the estate plan have grounds to petition the court to make a change.
  • Arrange for suitable care for the pet in advance, in terms of who is going to take care of the pet.  The trustee of the Pet Trust does not have to be the same person who will take care of the animal.

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