Until now, Massachusetts pet owners have only been able to make arrangement for their pets via their wills. Ownders have left funds for their pets' care, and named a caregiver to look after the pets. Pet owners have also had the ability to create a trust to leave funds to the caregiver to take care of the animal.
I myself have a will in which I name a caregiver to look after my animal companions. I have three cats, Axl (I didn't name her) 19, Jill 5, and Contessa 10 months. I will take quick advantage of the opportunity to create a pet trust for my girls. It will give me a lot more peace of mind that my animal companions will be well cared for after I'm gone.
1) The person I've named in my will to take care of my animals is under no legal obligation to do so. So they could decide not to be bothered and take my beloved girls to a shelter, or worse.
2) Money I leave in my will to the pet caregiver might be used to care for my pet, but legall the caregiver, as beneficiary, could spend the money however they wanted without any legal risk.
3) Likewise, money I may choose to leave in trust to the pet caregiver could be used in any way the caregiver chose. There is no guarantee the money would be spent to care for my pets, and no legal remedy if the money is spent for some other purpose. This is a risk I am not comfortable taking. A pet trust lets me leave money to the pet directly, rather than to the caregiver, providing much better protection for my animals. I'll explain why.
For many of us, our animals are much more than pets. They are companions, trusted confidantes, friends, and family members. It is great news that Massachusetts now allows us to provide for our pets just as we do for our other family members.
Here's how a pet trust works:
1) You name your pet(s) as the direct beneficiary (this wasn't possible previously)
2) You name a trustee. This is the person who is allowed to take money out of the trust.
3) You name a guardian or caregiver. This is the person who gets custody of your pet. This person receives money from the trustee to care for your pet(s).
4) You name someone (called a residual beneficiary) to receive the balance of y our pet trust after your animals have gone over the rainbow bridge.
The guardian or caregiver does not have direct access to the funds. They must request funds from the trustee, and the trustee must ascertain that the request for funds complies with the terms of the trust. The trustee has the authority, in fact the obligation, to decline to disburse funds for any purpose that does not adhere to the owner's wishes as documented in the trust
If the guardian fails to fulfill their duties under the trust, the trustee can bring the matter to probate court for resolution. And the court, for the first, are required by statute to recognize that th epets are entitled to the trust funds. If necessary, the trustee can even ask the court to assign a new caregiver for the animals. It is a good idea to name an alternative guardian in case this situation arises, so that you will have some say in who will have custody of your animals..