Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog


Florida law allows you to protect your pets in your estate plan

January 16, 2017
Cat and Dog

Headlines are made when wealthy people leave outsize fortunes to their pets. One notable example is Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate who passed away in 2007. Cutting out her family, Helmsley left her entire $12 million fortune to her pet Maltese, Trouble. A judge subsequently scaled back the dog’s inheritance to $2 million, but that’s still an ample sum for a small dog to live on comfortably!

More recently, a Tennessee resident spread her wealth beyond her household pets. Glenda DeLawder, an avid animal lover, died in 2015 at age 72, leaving her $1.2 million estate to the county to help care for its dogs and cats.  So far, $540,000 has been given to the Carter County animal shelter to purchase a van to transport animals to veterinary care and adoption events, and to expand its cat living areas.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, over two million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized every year: That is one every 13 seconds. A number of those animals are pets whose elderly owners have died or have become too ill to care for them.

If you have a precious pet, you doubtless want to make sure it is properly cared for if you become incapacitated or pass away.  Consider formalizing arrangements so that you know it will be protected. Florida residents may establish a pet trust, which can be created while you are alive, or at your death via provisions in your will. Your trust will provide money for the care and maintenance of your pet, as well as name someone (as well as backups) to care for it. You can also name beneficiaries to receive any funds that are left in the trust when your pet passes on.

Many of our firm’s clients derive great peace of mind from knowing that no matter what happens, their pet will be well cared for. And unlike Trouble the Maltese, it probably won’t take $2 million to keep your Fifi or Fido happy.