Many people in California have more than one pet these days and they are usually an integral part of a family's identity and life. It is therefore entirely understandable for people to want to provide for their domestic pets in their wills or other estate planning methods. When the method used for this purpose is through one's will, certain state law limitations may interfere with one's ability to fully manage the pet's future.
For example, the amount of money that one may leave for the benefit of animals in the will may be limited. Also, the caretaker may be able to take the funds designated for the use of the pet and use them for his or her own personal needs. The bequest is therefore not generally enforceable under traditional state law provisions.
The preferred way therefore is to prepare a pet trust. This may be more expensive but it will get the job done and provide the kind of peace of mind that most people want. The trust will appoint a primary caretaker for the pet(s). In addition, the pet trust will likely also appoint a trustee to administer the funds placed in the trust for the care of the animal(s). It is fairly obvious that one does not want to draw up such an extensive and important document without telling the caretaker and the trustee and getting their permission.
It is best to get the prior informed commitment of the caretaker to care for the animals in the way that one desires and specifies. Do not minimize the caretaker's responsibilities; stress the solemn importance of the responsibilities he or she will assume. Separate written instructions on details can be established and provided as an attachment to the trust. It is also important to check with an estate planning attorney periodically to keep the provisions of the pet care trust documents up to date under California law.