A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May of 1999 demonstrated that independently living seniors that have pets tend to have better physical health and mental well-being than those that don’t. They’re more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. A 1997 study showed that elderly pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure overall than their contemporaries without pets. In fact, an experimental residential home for the elderly called the Eden Alternative, which is filled with over 100 birds, dogs, and cats and has an outside environment with rabbits and chickens, has experienced a 15 percent lower mortality rate than traditional nursing homes over the past five years.
With all the healthy benefits for seniors with pets, what happens to the pet if a senior should pass away?
Lately, I have been hearing this question from clients. They want to know who is going to take care of their pets when they die. Can they name someone in their estate planning documents to take care of their pets? What about a trust – can they set one up for their pet(s)?
Florida Statute, Section 736.0408 allows for a trust to be created to care for an animal, and this trust ends at the death of the animal (or the last surviving animal if you have more than one). However, the court has the power to determine if the property in the trust exceeds the amount needed to care for the animal(s). So, no leaving $1 million dollars to Fifi (it might be considered excessive)!