MSPCA-Angell Press Release

“Pet Trusts” Law Takes Effect Today

April 7, 2011

Animals and pet owners to benefit from new, enforceable trusts

 

As of April 7, 2011, a new law provides Massachusetts residents the ability to form a legally enforceable trust to provide for the care of one or more animals if the owners become incapacitated or die.

Governor Deval Patrick signed into law An Act Relative to Trusts for the Care of Animals 90 days ago and authorizes the creation of an enforceable trust that is established with the pet as the beneficiary, while specifying both a trustee for the trust and a caretaker for the pet. Pet owners will be ensured that their wishes and directions regarding their companion animals will be carried out.

”We applaud Governor Patrick and the many legislators who understood the importance of this legislation,” said MSPCA director of Advocacy, Kara Holmquist. “This law ensures that families with pets can provide financial resources for the care of their animals in the event of incapacity or death, benefiting people as well as the pets. Additionally, the burden placed on municipal shelters and rescue organizations will now be eased as there is a viable, enforceable alternative plan for the care of animals.”

About the Law:
Sponsor: Representative Kafka

Why was the law needed and why was Massachusetts’ previously existing law not sufficient? The growing trend in state laws permitting pet trusts:
At least 43 states and the District of Columbia have enacted pet trust statutes[1]. At least 19 of the states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Trust Code’s provisions for pet trusts[2]. Massachusetts was one of only a handful of remaining states that continues to have no form of pet trust legislation. Previously in Massachusetts, a person can currently only assign the assets of a trust to the caretaker of the pet, and hope that the caretaker uses the assets for the care and maintenance of the pet as intended. Such a trust is not enforceable by law. The alternative means of providing for a pet through a will is also problematic for the same reason and for the delay of providing access to the funds that can accompany the probate process, leaving the pet at risk for lack of care.

Why is the law important to Massachusetts constituents and public policy?
More and more people view their pets as family members and are concerned about the welfare of these animals if the animals should outlive them. The increase in veterinary advances now available to companion animals and the advent of pet health insurance for owners to minimize costs has added to the overall health and lifespan of people’s pets. Pets are living longer and are an integral part of their families’ lives. It has been estimated that between 12 and 27 percent of pet owners include their pets in estate planning[3]. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that over 68.7 million households care for a companion animal. In Massachusetts, it is estimated that 33.3 percent of households live with a cat or dog (MSPCA/Dorr Research). Not infrequently, municipal shelters and animal rescue organizations find that the incapacity or death of an owner results in abandonment, surrender or the inability to care for the pet.
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[1] Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,  New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
[2] These statistics can be found on the website of Professor Gerry W. Beyer of the Texas Tech University School of Law at www.professorbeyer.com.
[3] ABA Real Property, Trusts & Estate Law – Ensuring a Pet’s Continued Care: Advising Your Clients About Legal Planning for a Pet’s Care.
 
• Read the text of this bill
• Find out more about members at www.mass.gov/legis
• Find out who represents you at: www.wheredoivotema.com
• Compare the Uniform Trust Code (UTC) to H. 1467