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Providing for a pet's future needs

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are an estimated 75 million dogs and 85 million cats living in U.S. households. To many pet owners, a dog or cat is more than just a pet and is viewed as a member of one's family. It makes sense, therefore, that some pet owners want to take steps to ensure for a pet's future safety and wellbeing.

Much like a revocable trust provides for the financial security of an individual's living heirs, a pet trust can be used to provide for a pet's financial needs. By establishing a trust and naming a trustee to manage and carryout the terms of a pet trust, an individual can help ensure for a pet's future healthcare and living expenses.

Laws governing pet trusts were enacted in Massachusetts in 2010. Under these laws, only animals that are alive during an individual's lifetime can be included in a trust. Upon the death of the pet or pets named in a trust, the trust and its terms terminate.

While provisions related to the care and needs of a pet can be accounted for in one's will, there are several benefits to choosing a trust. Legally enforceable, the terms of and directives laid out in a trust allow a pet owner to provide very specific instructions with regard to the care and wellbeing of a beloved animal. Additionally, if an individual is still alive, but incapacitated and unable to care for a pet, the instructions laid out in a trust will go into effect. 

Massachusetts pet owners who wish to explore pet trust options should seek advice from an estate planning attorney. There are many specific issues that must be addressed when establishing a pet trust including naming a trustee and a pet's veterinary needs and standard of living. An attorney can assist in ensuring that a trust meets a pet owners goals as well as the unique needs of his or her pet.

Source: ASPCA.org, "Pet Trust Primer," June 27, 2015

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