When most people think about trusts, they may picture young people sipping drinks on a yacht discussing the amounts their parents allow them to take from their trust funds. While it is possible that some trust beneficiaries fit this image, trusts can be used for a multitude of purposes in Florida.
Sometimes a trust is formed to protect the assets of an estate from taxes or creditors and sometimes it is to ensure they are used for a certain legitimate purpose. In fact, there are sections of the Florida Trust Code that apply to trusts that do not have individual human beings as beneficiaries. One of these parts has to do with charitable trusts but another, less-well known law deals with trusts that have animal beneficiaries.
Florida Statute 736.0408 is the section of the law that applies to trusts that have a living beneficiary that is not human. The statute provides that a trust may be set up for the care of an animal. The law sets some restrictions on such instruments. For example, the animal to be cared for must be alive during the lifetime of the settlor. The trust will last as long as the animal lives and, if multiple animals are involved, the trust would terminate on the death of the last living creature named.
The trust can be enforced by someone appointed in the instrument itself or by someone appointed by the court. A person with an interest in the animal's welfare may also petition the court to appoint or remove a person overseeing the trust. As with many trusts the assets in an animal welfare trust must be used for the intended purposes and if there are more than necessary they are to be returned to the settlor or the settlor's estate.
This type of law may conjure the stereotype of the old woman who leaves her millions to her cats. However, there are no restrictions on the type of animal involved, as long as it was living during the settlor's lifetime. If you have questions about whether a trust makes sense as part of a comprehensive estate plan, you may wish to consult an experienced Florida estate attorney.