By Attorney Kelly S. Jason
Estate planning for the benefit of pets sounds a bit "hokey"e.g., the late hotelier, Leona Helmsley, who left $12,000,000. in trust to care for one dog. But providing for the future care of domestic animals is a serious subject and has always been very important to me. While I love all of my pets, my primary concern was what would happen to my horse in the event of my incapacity or death. Here is "Sea Storm" aka "Stormy" (featured photo) enjoying a divine Thanksgiving 2013.
Horses, like many other animals, have a long lifespan and can be expensive to care for. I personally know of situations where a horse owner passed without any sort of plan in place to provide for the animal. Thankfully, the situations I know of worked out for the best. However, as one can imagine that is not always the case.
In the spring of 2011, Massachusetts joined a majority of other states that allow and recognize trusts established for the benefit and care of companion animals. Under this law a trust for the care of animals shall be valid and enforceable. The pet care trust is a vechicle by which money can be left to a trustee to be used exclusively for the care and comfort of the trust creator's pets.
Prior to the enactment of this law many clients in my practice were forced to rely on the promises of family or friends to care for their animals if something happened to them. I am happy to say that this is no longer the case and I am able to offer my pet owning clients piece of mind be creating a pet care trust.
The Massachusetts Probate & Family Court is the court with jurisdiction over matters involving pet care trusts. The law provides the Probate Court with the power to: name a successor trustee if needed; order the transfer of property to another trustee if necessary; enforce the terms of the trust; or make orders as are advisable to carry out the intent of the trust creator. It can also reduce the amount of the trust if it determines the amount substantially exceeds the amount required to care for the animail (s). In the Helmsley case the NY court reduced the trust amount to $2,000,000. Now that's a lucky dog!
If you are a pet owner and haven't already done so, create a pet care trust and gain peace of mind in 2014.
Best wishes to you and your four- legged friends!