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What happens to pets in probate?

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2024 | PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION - Probate

Pets are members of the family for many Americans. So, it is natural to wonder what happens to them when you are no longer around. Unfortunately, estate planning often overlooks a pet’s well-being, and probate law does not offer the most heartwarming solutions.

California probate law considers pets property, which means they cannot directly inherit from a will. Still, the state recognizes the unique bond between owners and pets, and there may be tools to address their future care.

Without a plan, your pet’s well-being is at risk

If you pass away without a will or any instructions regarding your pet, their fate becomes uncertain. Scenarios can include:

  • Intestacy laws: The state’s intestacy laws may dictate who inherits your assets, including your pet. This person might not be the ideal caregiver.
  • Family decisions: Your family members may try to agree on who takes the pet, but this can lead to conflict if multiple people are interested.
  • Animal shelters: Your pet may end up in an animal shelter as a last resort. While shelters do their best, finding a new home can be stressful for an animal who has just lost their owner.

The good news is that California law offers a specialized trust called an animal trust, which may offer a much more secure and humane solution. In this estate planning tool, you can designate a trustee, an individual you trust to manage the funds allocated for your pet’s care, including food, vet bills and any other expenses.

Crafting a pet-centric estate plan

It is essential to outline your wishes for your pet’s care while you still have the time and options. Identify a trusted individual, estimate the costs and designate a backup caregiver. Knowing someone will look after your pet with love and respect, even after you are gone, provides immense peace of mind.