Pet Trusts

Recognizing the strong bond that exists between people and animals, in 2011 the Massachusetts legislature made it possible to allow a pet lover to establish a trust fund to provide ongoing care for her own pets after her death.

The statute provides that the trust will not terminate until the benefited animal has passed away, assuming that the trust contains enough funds to continue to exist for that length of time. Some people overcome the lack of present funds by purchasing a life insurance policy that will pay into the trust when they pass away. Conversely, if the trust receives an excessive amount of assets, the statute also allows for a reduction of the funds, so long as there will be no substantial impact on the animal.

Creating a Pet Trust

When creating a pet trust, it is necessary to name a trustee, who will be responsible for managing and investing the funds as well as making distributions for animal care.

An important decision when planning for your pet is determining who will serve as your pet’s caretaker. While the statute does not restrict the trustee from acting as the caretaker, this arrangement is not recommended as it could lead to a lack of oversight with respect to animal care, trust fund management, or both. It is also recommended that you name at least one alternate caretaker, if not several, who would provide care if the originally named caretaker was unable to do so.

Planning Ahead

To ensure that the plan is carried out as intended, you should also address the following concerns: 

  • Remember that your pet will pass through your estate as personal property; therefore, you must leave your pet to the trust in your will or by assignment prior to your passing. 
  • Clearly describe the animal to avoid “replacement” of the animal by an unscrupulous caregiver who desires to continue receiving payments from the trust. 
  • Clearly describe any special care requirements and specifically authorize any expenditure that might be considered unusual or excessive. 
  • Include guidelines for euthanasia and to address the final disposition of your animal.

Consult a Professional

Consult an estate planning professional to assist you with creating a pet trust. They can be sure your trust is established so that your animals receive care for the rest of their life.