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