0

Should Your Massachusetts Pet Trust Contain a Trust Purpose?

While it is not legally necessary that a specific statement of purpose be included in a Massachusetts Pet Trust, it makes sense to include it.  You could state that the primary purpose of the Pet Trust  is to provide for the health, care and welfare of your pets, or you could go deeper into your wishes for your pets.  A trust purpose section can establish your overall wishes and give general or specific instructions to the Trustee, Caretaker and Monitor in case they later have a difference of opinion.

You may not want the Caretaker to be prevented from doing what the Caretaker thinks is appropriate, but that problem could occur if the Trustee is second-guessing the Caretaker and withholding funds.  For example, if any of your pets ever suffer from a medical or physical condition or illness and the Caretaker determines, based on the opinion of a Veterinarian who has examined the pet, that it would be more humane to euthanize the pet, then you may wish to authorize the Caretaker to do so at the expense of the Pet Trust.

The trust purpose section should also cover what happens both during your lifetime and after your death.  During any period of time that you are incapacitated, the Pet Trustee should be allowed to spend the principal and net income of your trust as is necessary for the care of your pets, and if it is not practical to keep your pets and animals at your home during that time, then the pets should be placed with the Caretaker.

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

3

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

4

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

1

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

2

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