By Sarah Foster
Most pet owners view their pets as members of their families and increasing such pet owners are choosing to do estate planning on their pet’s behalf. Of course, we can’t leave funds directly to pets as we can to family members.
Fortunately, Massachusetts recently enacted pet trust legislation (the “Pet Trust Act”) to allow legally enforceable pet trusts in Massachusetts.
Under the Pet Trust Act, a pet owner can make a trust for the care of animals alive during the owner’s lifetime. Unless as otherwise provided, the trustee may use the trust funds only for the benefit of the animal (with the exception of reasonable administration fees). However, a court has the power to reduce the amount of property held by a trust if it finds the funds excessive and that the reduction would have no substantial adverse impact on the pet.
A pet trust must be structured differently from a regular trust since the beneficiary – the pet – is unable to legally enforce the terms of the trust. Therefore, in addition to the trustee, who executes the terms of the trust, a pet owner may want the pet trust to include additional roles, such as a caretaker (the person actually caring for the pet), a monitor (a person who periodically checks on the pet) and the trust enforcer (a person who enforces the terms of the trust). Of course, the trust must also say when the remaining funds will go upon the death of the pet or pets.