We have all seen or heard of the estate where the entire fortune is left to Scruffy the dog. In a case we are working on in our offices, the entire estate was left to “Cujo”, which is not the dog’s real name but it is his real personality. In our case, the trust provides that until the time when the dog passes away, all of the trust funds shall be used to maintain the dog in the owner’s home including payment of the insurance, taxes, maintenance, repairs, utilities and homeowner fees on the home. Although this is an extreme example, at DenHerder & Associates we do see many clients who want to make some provision in their estate plans for the care of their beloved pets.
Historically, California courts struggled with trusts set up to support a pet. Because such trusts are noncharitable trusts, a human beneficiary who could enforce the trust would normally be required or the trust would fail. There was also a concern that these trusts may be voidable under the Rule against Perpetuities. Despite these concerns, some courts gave effect to these trusts referring to them as honorary trusts. The honorary trustee was held to have the power to use the estate assets for the care of the pet, but could not be compelled to do so.
In order to overcome these legal difficulties, the legislature enacted Probate Code §§15211‑15212 in 1991. Probate Code §15211 resolves the Rule Against Perpetuities issue by providing that “a lawful noncharitable purpose may be performed by the trustee for only 21 years, whether or not there is a beneficiary who can seek enforcement or termination of the trust and whether or not the terms of the trust contemplate a longer duration.” Probate Code §15212 addresses the human beneficiary issue providing that “A trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal may be performed by the trustee for the life of the animal, whether or not there is a beneficiary who can seek enforcement or termination of the trust and whether or not the terms of the trust contemplate a longer duration.” So, for all of you who are dog people, cat people or other pet people, remember there is a way to provide for your “best” friend.
Contact our office for a complimentary consultation on how to provide for your pets and ensure their proper care!