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Choosing a Caretaker for Your Pet in Your Massachusetts Pet Trust

The choice of a Caretaker for your pet is always a tough decision in the estate planning process.  The Caretaker is the person that will be in charge of your pet when, due to your death or disability, you cannot be responsible for the daily care of your pet.  The Caretaker will be in charge of your pet’s Life Care Plan, including its diet, exercise, medical treatment and eventual death.

The Caretaker should be expected to follow your wishes for the care of your pet.  In most cases, another member of your family or a friend will be appointed as the Caretaker, but you need to discuss the situation completely with the family member or friend in advance to ensure that this person is able and willing to accept this responsibility.  In case that person cannot continue to serve in the role, a successor Caretaker should also be appointed in the trust, or there should at least be a method for appointing a successor.  If you do not have a clear choice for the role of Caretaker or successor Caretaker, perhaps the pet’s Veterinarian may have some suggestions, such as a local Humane Society.

Under the system of checks and balances in the trust, the person who is appointed Monitor should have the ability to check on the pet at any reasonable time.  The Caretaker should be someone who will not be resentful of this scrutiny.

If it is your intention that the Caretaker be compensated for taking care of your pet, the method of compensation should be clearly outlined in the trust.

Posted by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq. / 18 Samoset Street, Plymouth, MA 02360 / 508-747-8282

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Instead of Establishing a Pet Trust, Can You Leave Your Pet to Your Veterinarian or an Animal Shelter?

One option other than a Massachusetts Pet Trust for the future care of your pet is to leave your pet to your Veterinarian or to an animal shelter.  I can’t and shouldn’t speak for your Veterinarian, however, so you should ask your Veterinarian directly about this issue.  If the Veterinarian would prefer not be directly involved, perhaps the Veterinarian could present you with suggestions about appropriate animal shelters.

You could then leave enough money in your will to the Veterinarian or animal shelter for the anticipated future care of the pet, and hope for the best for your pet.  Consider, however, that your pet would then not be a part of a family and may not receive the same amount of attention and affection that the pet has had at home.

Posted by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq. /  18 Samoset Street, Plymouth, MA 02360  /   508-747-8282

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What Are the Basic Components of a Massachusetts Pet Trust?

When establishing a Massachusetts Pet Trust, there are some basic components that must be considered, including the following:

1.  THE CARETAKER:  The pet trust must appoint a Caretaker for your pet, and should include either a successor to the Caretaker or a method to determine who will be the successor if the Caretaker quits, becomes disabled or dies.

2.  THE TRUSTEE:  The pet trust must appoint a Trustee to handle the finances, and should include a successor Trustee or a method to choose the successor Trustee.

3.  THE MONITOR:  A person known as a Monitor should be appointed to oversee that the Caretaker and Trustee are performing their roles appropriately.  The pet’s Veterinarian could perhaps serve as the Monitor, since the Veterinarian is a professional who would not only know what care was appropriate under the circumstances, but also how much that care should cost.

4.  THE ACCOUNTINGS:  Where Massachusetts law requires that a Trustee of any trust prepare accountings to disclose all financial transactions, the pet trust must specify who is to receive and review those accountings, and what should happen if the Trustee is not handling the role properly.   The Monitor can serve in this role.

5. THE PET:  The beneficiary or beneficiaries of the trust should be made clear.  Every pet that the trust is being established for must be carefully identified.  Also, since an animal is considered personal property under Massachusetts law, the pet must be assigned to the trust.

6.  THE LIFE CARE PLAN:  The trust should state your expectations for the pet’s standard of living and care, including veterinary appointments and surgery.  The trust should also have a provision that deals with what should happen if the Caretaker is not doing an adequate job; the Monitor can serve in this role.

7.   THE FUNDS:  The trust is a useless pile of papers if funds do not arrive in the trust when needed.  Consider not only how funds will get into the trust after your death, but also during any period of your disability before death.  Perhaps the Trustee should be given a limited durable power of attorney to place funds into the trust if you become disabled. 

8.  THE TRUST TERMINATION:  Provisions should be made for what happens to the pet’s remains after the pet dies, including the pet’s burial or cremation.  Provisions should also be made for what then happens to the remaining funds in the trust.

Posted by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq. / 18 Samoset Street, Plymouth, MA 02360 / 508-747-8282

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With Whom Should You Discuss Your Plans for Your Massachusetts Pet Trust?

Besides your pet’s Veterinarian, various other parties should be consulted during the process of your estate planning for your pets.  Your estate planning attorney must be involved to make sure that your pet trust is prepared in accordance with Massachusetts law and so that there is a method for getting the pet and funds into the trust at the appropriate time.

Your own family members, your choices as Trustee and your choices as Caretaker of your pet must all be aware of your plans and wishes.

If you have a financial planner, that person should also know about your plans for your pet trust.

After your pet trust is in place, you also need to let anyone who has a key to your home know about your plans. If something happens suddenly to you, they need to know where your pet should go.

Posted by:

Brian E. Barreira, Esq.

18 Samoset Street,

Plymouth, MA

508-747-8282

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Should You Have a Discussion with Your Veterinarian about Your Plan to Establish a Massachusetts Pet Trust?

There may be nobody except you with as much knowledge about and insight into the health and well-being of your pet as your pet’s Veterinarian, so a discussion with the Veterinarian during your estate planning process can be of great  help.

Medical records and the possible future needs of your pet can be outlined for the Caretaker, and a Pet Life Plan can be created.  Dietary or medication schedules or exercise plans can be placed into writing for the future use of the pet’s Caretaker, and, in some cases, you may also wish to make tentative arrangements for eventual death of your pet.

You and your Veterinarian should discuss your pet’s potential lifespan, to help estimate the total costs that may be needed for the care of your pet and the necessary funding of the Pet Trust.  Under Massachusetts law, a judge can reduce the amount going into the pet trust, so you should not guess blindly on how much the pet may need.

Posted by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq. / 18 Samoset Street, Plymouth, MA 02360 / 508-747-8282

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What Are the Reasons to Establish a Massachusetts Pet Trust?

Many people who own a pet consider their pet to be a family member, and now Massachusetts law allows you to treat the pet in your will or trust as though it were a person.   A Massachusetts Pet Trust is not for everyone, but some people should consider it for the following reasons:

1. You should consider having a Massachusetts Pet Trust if your family members would take care of your pet for free, but are not a good choice due to allergies, attitude or time.

2. You should consider having a Massachusetts Pet Trust if you have chosen a Caretaker for your pet but that person needs to have access to funds for   the pet’s care during the pet’s lifetime, yet you don’t want that person inheriting all of the remaining funds after the pet dies. 

3. You should consider having a Massachusetts Pet Trust if your life expectancy is shorter than your pet because of your health, or because your  pet that has a long life expectancy.  For example, some parrots can live over 100 years.

4. You should consider having a Massachusetts Pet Trust if you live alone, and are concerned who would step in and care for your pet if you suddenly were hospitalized, became disabled or died.

5. You should consider having a Massachusetts Pet Trust if your pet is the type of animal that not just anyone can care for. For example, horses should not be put into the care of by someone who has little or no experience with them.

6. You should consider having a Massachusetts Pet Trust if you own more than one pet and want to keep your pets together if you are unable to care for them.

Posted by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq. / 18 Samoset Street, Plymouth, MA 02360 / 508-747-8282

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Can You Leave a Sum of Money Directly to Your Pet in Your Will?

Under Massachusetts law, you cannot leave money directly to a pet.  A legacy in a will has to be received to be effective. A pet is considered to be personal property, not a person or entity, and cannot receive funds.  If you tried to leave funds directly to the pet in your will, under Massachusetts law the legacy would be null and void, and those funds would pass to the persons or entity inheriting the residue of your estate. 

The alternative to leaving a legacy to the pet is to leave the legacy to a person, but, without a Massachusetts Pet Trust in place, the person receiving the legacy would have no legal obligation to use those funds for the pet. 

Even if the person receiving the legacy has the best of intentions, the person can become disabled, be successfully sued or die, and the funds would then not be available for the pet’s future care.

Posted by: Brian E. Barreira, Esq. / 18 Samoset Street, Plymouth, MA 02360 / 508-747-8282