Florida’s Pet Trust Law: Taking Care of Fido, Fluffy, and Flipper, the Goldfish

Have you made plans for your pets if something were to happen to you? Florida law lets pet owners establish enforceable “pet trusts” to provide for animals after their owners die or become incapacitated.  Before this law was passed, Florida pet owners could set aside money to take care of their pets but the trust arrangements were honorary, which meant Florida courts could not enforce provisions of the trusts if the pet’s caretakers decided to use the money for their own purposes rather than for the care of the animal.

You can set up a trust fund for your pet and appoint a trustee – a friend, a relative, or maybe your accountant or veterinarian – to make sure the animal is treated well and that the money in the trust fund is used for the pets’ food, shelter, medical care, doggy treats, catnip and maybe even a new aquarium for Flipper, the Goldfish. The trustee may or may not be the same person you named to be the pet’s caretaker. Any person having an interest in the animal’s welfare can ask the courts for help in enforcing the provisions of the trust. Any money remaining in the trust after the pet dies can be distributed to your heirs or to a charity, as you choose.

You can only provide for the care of an animal alive during your lifetime; the trust can’t provide indefinitely for your pet’s progeny.

Measures you may want to consider for your best friends when you carry out estate planning – even if you don’t want to go as far as establishing a pet trust:

  • Provisions in your durable financial power of attorney authorizing money to be spent caring for your pet if you become ill or disabled
  • Provisions in your will or living trust naming a caretaker for your pet
  • Provisions in your Health Care Advance Directive stating your wishes that your pet remain at home with you as long as it is medically advisable and that if you must be moved to a new residence your pet be permitted to stay with you or, if that is not possible, that regular visits be arranged.

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