Estate Planning and Probate issues for horses and pets

I recently met with a client who has a number of horses. Her family is not interested in them so she wants them to go to a trusted friend and fellow horse lover. We are assigning the “ownership” of the horses to her California revocable living trust. This will help to avoid probate after death. We also are setting up a pet trust with a chunk of money to take care of the horses food, shelter and health care. California law specifically allows for this at California probate code 15212. That section is laid out in full below for your information.

Let me know of any questions you have regarding pet trusts or assigning animals to your living trust.  -John


California Probate Code Section 15212

(a) Subject to the requirements of this section, a trust
for the care of an animal is a trust for a lawful noncharitable
purpose. Unless expressly provided in the trust, the trust terminates
when no animal living on the date of the settlor’s death remains
alive. The governing instrument of the animal trust shall be
liberally construed to bring the trust within this section, to
presume against the merely precatory or honorary nature of the
disposition, and to carry out the general intent of the settlor.
Extrinsic evidence is admissible in determining the settlor’s intent.
(b) A trust for the care of an animal is subject to the following
(1) Except as expressly provided otherwise in the trust
instrument, the principal or income shall not be converted to the use
of the trustee or to any use other than for the benefit of the
(2) Upon termination of the trust, the trustee shall distribute
the unexpended trust property in the following order:
(A) As directed in the trust instrument.
(B) If the trust was created in a nonresiduary clause in the
settlor’s will or in a codicil to the settlor’s will, under the
residuary clause in the settlor’s will.
(C) If the application of subparagraph (A) or (B) does not result
in distribution of unexpended trust property, to the settlor’s heirs
under Section 21114.
(3) For the purposes of Section 21110, the residuary clause
described in subparagraph (B) of paragraph (2) shall be treated as
creating a future interest under the terms of a trust.
(c) The intended use of the principal or income may be enforced by
a person designated for that purpose in the trust instrument or, if
none is designated, by a person appointed by a court. In addition to
a person identified in subdivision (a) of Section 17200, any person
interested in the welfare of the animal or any nonprofit charitable
organization that has as its principal activity the care of animals
may petition the court regarding the trust as provided in Chapter 3
(commencing with Section 17200) of Part 5.
(d) If a trustee is not designated or no designated or successor
trustee is willing or able to serve, a court shall name a trustee. A
court may order the transfer of the trust property to a
court-appointed trustee, if it is required to ensure that the
intended use is carried out and if a successor trustee is not
designated in the trust instrument or if no designated successor
trustee agrees to serve or is able to serve. A court may also make
all other orders and determinations as it shall deem advisable to
carry out the intent of the settlor and the purpose of this section.
(e) The accountings required by Section 16062 shall be provided to
the beneficiaries who would be entitled to distribution if the
animal were then deceased and to any nonprofit charitable corporation
that has as its principal activity the care of animals and that has
requested these accountings in writing. However, if the value of the
assets in the trust does not exceed forty thousand dollars ($40,000),
no filing, report, registration, periodic accounting, separate
maintenance of funds, appointment, or fee is required by reason of
the existence of the fiduciary relationship of the trustee, unless
ordered by the court or required by the trust instrument.
(f) Any beneficiary, any person designated by the trust instrument
or the court to enforce the trust, or any nonprofit charitable
corporation that has as its principal activity the care of animals
may, upon reasonable request, inspect the animal, the premises where
the animal is maintained, or the books and records of the trust.
(g) A trust governed by this section is not subject to termination
pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 15408.
(h) Section 15211 does not apply to a trust governed by this
(i) For purposes of this section, “animal” means a domestic or pet
animal for the benefit of which a trust has been established.

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