AN ACT RELATIVE TO TRUSTS FOR THE CARE OF ANIMALS
Update! The Govenor signed this bill on Friday, January 7th, 2011. It took effect 90 days later and is now Chapter 430 of the Acts of 2010.
Thank you to Senators Ross, Hedlund, Jehlen, Donnelly, Tarr, Timilty, DiDomenico and Montigny for signing a letter of support for this bill.
What the new law will do:
This law allows for legally enforceable trusts to provide for the care of one or more animals if the trust’s creator becomes incapacitated or dies. It does this by authorizing 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. With this legislation, pet owners can be ensured that their wishes and directions regarding their companion animals will be carried out.
Why this change was needed and why Massachusetts’ previous law was not sufficient - the growing trend in state laws permitting pet trusts:
At least forty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted pet trust statutes. At least nineteen of the states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Trust Code’s provisions for pet trusts.
Massachusetts was one of only a handful of remaining states that continued to have no form of pet trust legislation. In Massachusetts, a person could previously 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 was 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 the new law is important to Massachusetts constituents and for public policy reasons:
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% of pet owners include their pets in estate planning. 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% 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.
This law will allow pet owners to provide financial resources for the care of their animals in the event of incapacity or death, which benefits the owners as well as the pets. Additionally, the burden placed on municipal shelters and rescue organizations will be eased as pet owners would have a viable, enforceable alternative plan for the care of their animals.
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