Pet Trusts

Do you often think, my dog (or cat) is infinitely nicer, kinder and more loving than many people I know?  I know I do.  That fuzzball in the photo is my dog Tuck.  Pets are sometimes the anchors in our life, giving us unconditional love and companionship.  Studies show that our health is improved simply by owning and loving a pet, merely by holding them in our arms.  Given all this, why should we not want to return that love, and to make sure our pets are cared for when we are no longer around?

Good news for pet lovers!  Massachusetts recently joined the states that allow pet owners to create pet trusts.  This is a significant change in the law.  Before this, you could leave money to a person, who might promise to care for your pet, but you could not leave money to your pet in trust.  In essence, pets were merely possessions, like a car, and of course you can’t leave money to your car!  Any pet owner knows a pet is not a mere possession.  The law has finally caught up with the reality of how much we value our pets.

How do you create a pet trust?

So what happens when you create a pet trust?  You leave enough money or other property in trust to care for your pet for its estimated remaining lifespan.  You name a person “caretaker,” who will care for your pet on a day-to-day basis during its lifetime.  You also name a person to act as the “trustee.”   Your trustee will manage and invest the trust property, and pay out the necessary money to pay the caretaker and for your pet’s needs.  If your pet trust names no trustee, one will be court-appointed.  State law also limits how much your trustee can pay himself or herself as compensation.  It is also a good idea to name an alternate trustee and caretaker.

What is the difference between a caretaker and a trustee?

Generally speaking, you should not name the same person as both trustee and caretaker.  Why?  With two people involved, they act as a check on each other.  What if your trustee does not act in the best interests of your pet?  Your caretaker may go to court to force the trustee to abide by his or her trust obligations.

Who decides what care your pet receives?

Your pet trust can be very specific about your wishes concerning the care of your pet, and can describe any special care that your pet needs and should receive.  The trust can even include instructions concerning the conditions under which your pet should be euthanized.  Once your pet dies, any remaining trust property will go to the person you designate in the trust, or if you do not designate anyone, to your estate or heirs.

If you have a beloved pet, and live in Massachusetts (especially in Attleboro, North Attleborough, Plainville, Wrentham, Mansfield, Foxboro, Norton, Rehoboth, orSeekonk),  consider the peace of mind you will have knowing they will be cared for when you are gone.  At Deschene Law Office, we can create a pet trust for you and your loved one.  Call us at 508-316-3853 today.