Today’s guest blogger is Michael Blacksburg, Attorney at Law. He is an expert in estate-planning, helping to ensure that a pet is cared for if a guardian dies or becomes incapacitated.
California law allows for the creation of trusts used to care for animals. However, as animal beneficiaries can’t enforce trusts themselves, like human trust beneficiaries can, these trusts have so far been treated only as “honorary.” This means the Trustee is under no legally enforceable obligation to create or follow the terms of the trust.
SB 685, sponsored by the SFSPCA, will enforce these trusts by statutorily creating the legal powers of a trust’s “Enforcer” to provide Trustee oversight, and by making a legal presumption that these trusts are not just precatory in nature. The Enforcer could be specifically named in the trust document, or any animal related nonprofit organization could petition the court to be named as the trust’s Enforcer should they believe the trust is being mismanaged. These organizations, some presumably chosen as the remainder beneficiaries of the trust by the person providing for their animals in their absence, would ensure trust enforcement.
These sorts of trusts are currently enforced in 37 states including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. California, along with Wisconsin, currently allow these trusts but lack a judicial enforcement mechanism.
SB 685 will become California law on January 1, 2009. This provides peace of mind to those creating these trusts and their enforceability hopefully encourages the donation of funds remaining at the end of a covered animal’s life to deserving nonprofit animal care organizations.
– Michael Blacksburg, blacksburg-law.com