People love their pets and usually think of them as part of their family. But what will happen to your furry or feathered family member if something happens to you? People often believe they will outlive their animal and thus be able to care for them forever, but their illness, accident or sudden death can prevent that. Even if your pet is not a parrot (with a life expectancy of 50 – 70 years) or a giant tortoise (which can live to be 100), your pets should be considered as a part of your estate planning process. There are several ways you can work with your attorney to plan for the care of your animals if you can no longer do so.

Durable powers of attorney, wills and trusts can include specific instructions for the care of your pet, and provide the person you want to care for the pet with a sum of money to provide that care. But if you want to leave more detailed instructions or provide more extensive resources, designate alternate caregivers or include a mechanism to monitor the caregiver and enforce your wishes, you may want to consider setting up a pet trust under Section 736.0408, Florida Statutes.

Under that law, a pet trust may be established for the lifetime of your pet or pets to provide for their care.  The pet trust may be enforced by a person appointed in trust document 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. Property placed in the trust may only be applied for the use intended by the person who created the trust, unless the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for its intended use, in which case the excess must be distributed to the person who created the trust, if living, or, to his or her estate.

So, when you talk with your attorney about estate planning, remember to provide for all the ones you love. Don’t forget about your pets!