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  • Writer's pictureMargot G. Birke

What Are Pet Trusts? "Jack and Jill, A Cautionary Tale" (Animated Video)

Most people believe that if they ask a trusted friend or family member to look after their pet after they die, that will do the job... Unfortunately that is not always the case. What if they mention their pets in their will and designate who is to care for them? That likely won’t be enough either. Why? Because wills do not take effect immediately, and the provisions in a will for the care of your pet are simply honorary – that is, it is a request, not a requirement, and has no binding legal authority.

You should always have a will, but if you want to make sure your pet is properly cared for the way you would want them to be, you should set up a trust for their benefit and provide for it to receive funds upon your death. Pet trusts are legal in Massachusetts and are the way to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

A trust is a written agreement between the Donor (you), your Trustee (the person you trust) and the beneficiary (your pet). There is also the Remainderman – the ultimate beneficiary of whatever is left in the trust when your pet is no longer here.

Some Questions to Ponder

How much money should you put in your pet trust? That depends on:

  • How many pets you have

  • Their life expectancy

  • Annual cost of food

  • Grooming and Veterinary Care

Who should be your trustee? Should you name a guardian for your pet? Should the trustee, or guardian and remainderman all be the same person or should they be different?

How should owning a pet affect the rest of your estate plan?

Your pet needs to be given to your trustee through your Last Will and Testament. Your Health Care Proxy should have a clause alerting medical personnel to the existence of your pet. Your Durable Power of Attorney should include the following:

  • authority to expend funds for the benefit of your pet;

  • authority to fund the pet trust during your lifetime;

  • authorize admission to your home and permission to take custody of your pet if necessary;

  • specifically authorize any unusual expenditures

An Animal Alert Card is a wallet card giving notice that you have a pet in case of an emergency. It should contain:

  • the pet’s name

  • the name and contact number of your designated care provider

  • directions to location of your pet and any specific instructions

Wondering if a pet trust is right for you and your furry friend? As with all estate planning, anyone considering a trust should contact an attorney who is skilled and experienced in this area. Your attorney must be licensed to practice in the state you live. If you reside in Massachusetts and are interested in learning more about which trusts might be the right option for you, please contact us.


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