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  • Korinna Locke

Pet Trusts allow you to provide care for your pet when you no longer can

By Korinna Locke, 3L at New England Law - Boston

In 2011 MA Governor Deval Patrick signed a law authorizing the creation of trust to provide for the care of one or more pets if the owner becomes disabled or dies.

What is a Pet Trust? Massachusetts Law provides that “a trust for the care of animals alive during the settlor’s lifetime shall be valid.” A "settlor" is another name for a pet owner with enough foresight to plan ahead. Pet Trusts can be created as its own legal instrument, or can be combined with another estate planning document.

Why a Pet Trust? A Pet Trust eliminates an individual’s worry as to what will happen to their family pets when they no longer can take care of them. The pet owner directs who will be the caretaker of their animals and leaves behind some money to cover the expenses to do it. A team is created consisting of a person you select to care for your pets, a person to watch over the care and another to disburse the funds. By having the state law recognize pet trusts, their terms can be protected and enforced in courts.

While a pet trust is drafted in advance, it only gets activated if the pet owner dies (or becomes disabled) and leaves behind living pets. If no animals survive the settlor, then funds never disburse into the trust instrument. Once the final pet named in the trust is deceased, then the remaining trust assets are distributed in accordance with the settlor’s wishes. This may mean that the funds go to a charitable organization or to the settlor’s other beneficiaries.


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