In 2011, Massachusetts recognized that its residents care about their pets as if they were members of their families by passing a law allowing people to create trusts for their pets’ care after their deaths or incapacitation. A beloved pet could end up in a shelter or even die of starvation if no arrangements are made in advance. Creating a revocable or irrevocable trust for a pet is a way to circumvent that eventuality.
Massachusetts law allows a pet trust to be created during the owner’s lifetime that does not terminate until the death of the last surviving pet. Other than any reasonable administration expenses and fees for the trustee, the assets are to be used for the care of the animal or animals. Enough assets can be placed in the trust to cover maintenance, care, including appearance, and health needs.
If the court determines that the assets in the trust are excessive for these needs to be met, it may reduce the amount without jeopardizing those needs and distribute the rest. Any remaining assets will also be distributed when the trust terminates. Courts can also appoint or change the trustee and enter any necessary orders if doing so will ensure that the trust is administered as the person who created it intended.
During the estate-planning process, individuals should alert their attorneys that they intend to provide for their pets. Just as would be the case with any other revocable or irrevocable trust, the particular circumstances of the individual will determine the contents of a pet trust. It can be easy to forget to provide for pets when creating an estate plan, since most people believe they will easily outlive them. However, no one knows for sure that will happen, and making a plan ahead of time can give everyone involved peace of mind.
Source: animallaw.info, “Massachusetts General Laws Annotated – Part II“, Accessed on Oct. 28, 2015