Governor Signs California Pet Trust Bill

Gov. SchwarzeneggerCalifornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law Section 15212 of the Probate Code which will make it much easier to set up enforceable pet trusts.

This new law replaces California’s previous pet trust law. Under the new law trusts can be created for the lawful noncharitable purpose of caring for  animals. The trust will not terminate for the life of the animals living at the time of their owner’s or custodian’s death.

The new law provides that an animal care trust will be presumed to be valid. A court can appoint a trustee if the trust document fails to specify anyone. Unless spelled out otherwise in the trust document, the trustee will be prohibited from using the assets or income for anything other than the care of the animal.  

The owner or custodian of the animals can designate someone to enforce the trust or a court can appoint someone to take action to make sure the trust’s purpose in caring for the animals is carried out. To do this, the court can appoint any person interested in the welfare of the animal or "any nonprofit charitable organization that has as its principal activity the care of animals". The court can transfer the trust to another trustee if the animals are not cared for as directed by the trust document.

A nonprofit that has as its principal activity the care of animals as well as a beneficiary who would inherit if the animal dies, can request an inspection of the animals and if there is more than $40,000 in assets, obtain an accounting of the trust property.

This law has strong provisions for enforcement of the trust. It will go a long way in helping pet owners set up trusts that really will benefit their animals.

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) initially introduced the measure which passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the state Senate.

Click here for more on pet trusts and other ways to provide for the future care of animals.