On January 7, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law “An Act Relative to Trusts for the Care of Animals,” which will take effect on April 7, 2011. The Act states simply that “[a] trust for the care of one or more animals . . . is valid.” The statute provides that the trust will not terminate until the benefited animal, or the last of several animals, has passed away. Conversely, if the trust receives an excessive amount of assets, the statute also allows for a reduction of the funds, so long as there will be no substantial impact on the animal.
The legislation also provides safeguards by restricting distributions to the trustee, with the exception of trustee fees, costs of administration and any other distribution authorized by the trust. Further, the statute allows for court enforcement of the trust if the trust funds are being misused.
When the last of the animals passes away, or if there is a reduction as indicated above, the funds would first be distributed as directed in the trust. If there is an absence of direction, the funds would be returned to the person who created the trust, if they are still alive. If they are not alive, then the funds would pass pursuant to the residuary clause of their Will. In the absence of a Will, the funds would pass in accordance with the laws of intestacy, which distribute your assets if you pass away without a Will. The best trust would provide for distribution of the balance within its terms.
To ensure that the plan is carried out as intended, you should also address the following concerns. Remember that your pet will pass through your estate as personal property; therefore, you must leave your pet to the trust in your Will or by assignment prior to your passing. In addition, your plan should clearly describe the animal to avoid “replacement” of the animal by an unscrupulous caregiver who desires to continue receiving payments from the trust. If your animal has specific care requirements, you should be sure to clearly describe those requirements and to specifically authorize any expenditures that might be considered unusual or excessive. Finally, you should be sure to include strict guidelines for euthanasia and to address the final disposition of your animal.
Gina M. Barry, Esq,