At least 43 states and the District of Columbia have enacted pet trust statutes. Such statutes allow for legally enforceable trusts to provide for the care of one or more animals if the trust's creator becomes incapacitated or dies. By creating an enforceable trust established with the pet as the beneficiary, while specifying both a trustee for the trust and a caretaker for the pet, pet owners can be ensured that their wishes and directions regarding their companion animals will be carried out.
More and more people view their pets as family members and are concerned about the welfare of their animals if the animals should outlive them. Pets are living longer and are an integral part of their families' lives. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that more than 68% of households care for a companion animal. The increase in veterinary advances now available to companion animals and the advent of pet health insurance for owners to minimize costs has added to the overall health and lifespan of people's pets. Providing for a pet through a will is problemmatic because of the delay in having access to the funds that can accompany the probate process, leaving the pet at risk for lack of care.
Not infrequently, municipal shelters and anmal rescue organizations find that the incapacity or death of an owner results in abandonment or surrender. By creating a pet trust, owners would have a viable, enforceable, alternative plan for the care of their beloved pets. Therefore, it is important to include pets in estate planning to insure their health and well-being.
On January 7, 2011 Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill that allows for the creation of an enforceable pet trust to provide for the care of one or more animals if the trust's creator becomes incapacitated or dies. This new law takes effect in 90 days. With this new law (H 1567, AN ACT RELATIVE TO TRUSTS FOR THE CARE OF ANIMALS), people with pets can be ensured that their wishes and directions regarding their companion animals will be carried out.
Does your state have such a statute? Talk with your attorney or estate planner.