Massachusetts Pet Trusts


Before the enactment of the new Massachusetts Pet Trust Law, effective April 7, 2011, providing for your pets when you are no longer able to personally provide for their ongoing care was problematic. Under Massachusetts law, an animal is considered personal property and upon the death of the owner the animal passes through the estate of the owner as tangible personal property. In the past, a pet could be "left" to someone in the will with a sum of money and directions to take care of the animal. Such provisions have been labeled "honorary pet trusts" but were generally unenforceable. In the alternative a trust could be established naming a person the beneficiary of the trust with directions to care for the animal but the Pet, however, was not the beneficiary of the trust.

Q: How does the new Massachusetts pet trust work?

A: You can create a specific trust for your pet where the pet is the beneficiary of the trust and the trust will provide care for any animal alive during your lifetime. This would be done in a document which is generally separate from your will. A Pet Trust can be structured in such a fashion as to reflect your wishes for the care of your pet or pets after you are no longer able to care for them.

Q: How would such care be provided for?

A: You would name a "trustee" in the pet trust who would be responsible for appointing a "caretaker" for your pet. The "trustee" could name themselves care taker or you could indicate in the trust who you would want as a caretaker. You can further provide for a "trust protector" in the trust who would ensure that your wishes are carried out. To make the trust work properly you would need a will which specifically refers to the trust and leaves any animals alive at your death to the pet trust. You should choose a "trustee" who will comply with your wishes for your animals care as outlined in your Pet Instructions Document.

How is the pet trust funded?

A: The Pet Trust can be funded by a gift in your will or by contributions to your Pet Trust during your lifetime. The funds in the Pet Trust are to be used only for the care of the pet unless otherwise provided for in the trust. If the amount of assets left to the Pet Trust is deemed excessive they may be reduced by an appropriate court.

What happens when my pet passes away?

A: The Pet Trust terminates upon the death of the last surviving animal in the trust and the balance will be distributed as provided for in the trust or as otherwise determined if there is no provision for distribution in the trust.

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