A Complete Guide to Pet Trusts

For many of us, pets are more than just property. Pets are companions, best friends, and even family. Many people ensure their beloved pet’s future care with a well-drafted pet trust.

What Is a Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a legal arrangement that ensures your pet receives proper care when you are no longer able to care for the pet yourself.

What are the Elements of a Pet Trust?

A trust is a legal entity in which you (the settlor) appoint a trustee who then manages the trust’s assets for the sole benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. In a pet trust, your pet is the ultimate beneficiary and your designated trustee is under a duty to make arrangements for the proper care of your pet in accordance with your specific care instructions. You may instead elect to have a separate caretaker. The caretaker would receive payments from the trustee on a regular basis to be used strictly for the care of the animal. Pursuant to Maryland law, a pet trust can only be created for a pet that was alive during the settlor’s lifetime. This means your pet trust cannot continue in perpetuity for the benefit of your pet’s future offspring.

What About the Care Instructions?

A pet trust is a means of protecting your pet. Therefore, the trust itself should contain care instructions specific to your pet. You are encouraged to add as much detail to your care instructions as you see fit.

Who Should Have a Pet Trust?

Anyone who loves their pets and wishes to give them the best life possible should consider visiting an estate planning attorney in order to draft a pet trust, regardless of age or health.

How is the Trust Enforced?

In order to further ensure that your pet will be cared for in accordance with your instructions, Maryland law makes clear that a specific person may be designated within the trust as having the power to enforce the trust’s terms. The law further states that if no one is appointed by the settlor, a person may be appointed by the court. Also, Maryland law allows anyone who has an interest in the welfare of the pet, such as family members or friends of the pet’s original owner, to request the appointment of a person to enforce the trust’s terms.

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When Does the Trust Terminate?

Pursuant to Maryland law, a pet trust must terminate at the death of the named pet or the last to die of all the pets if the trust is created for more than one pet. The remaining assets must then be distributed in accordance with the settlor’s instructions.

If you wish to protect your beloved pet’s future well-being, a pet trust may be a valued addition to your estate plan.

At the Bald Law Firm, LLC, we pride ourselves on providing comprehensive legal services at an affordable rate. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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