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Estate Planning for Pets


Planning for the Care of Pets

Effective October 1, 2009, the legislature enacted a law authorizing the establishment of statutory pet trusts in the State of Maryland.

By incorporating a pet trust into your estate plan, you can ensure that your pet will be cared for in the event of your untimely death or disability. Specifically, the terms of the trust can include, among other things, provisions appointing a primary and alternate caregiver and an enforcer or trustee who will oversee the administration of the trust and the care of your pet. The trust agreement may also include instructions regarding the proper health care needs, exercise needs, diet needs, preferred veterinarian, burial/cremation plans for your pet and instructions regarding the distribution of any excess trust assets. Trusts are asset protection tools that preserve the trust estate for the care and welfare of your pet and protect it from the creditors of your named caregiver or trustee.

If you have pets and are concerned about their welfare in the event of your untimely death or disability, consider establishing a trust for the benefit of your pets.

The law provides the following:

  1. The trust must be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor's lifetime.
  2. The trust ends at the death of the last surviving animal covered by the trust.
  3. The trust may appoint someone to enforce the trust or a person with an interest in the welfare of the animal may ask the court may appoint an enforcer. The court can also be asked to remove an enforcer who is not doing his/her job.
  4. Trust property may be used only for the pet's benefit, except if the court finds that the value of the trust property is excessive.
  5. If the settlor did not provide express directions, excess trust property passes to the settlor (if still alive) or to the settlor's successors in interest if the settlor is dead.

For more information regarding the incorporation of pet trusts into your estate plan and other estate planning tools, please contact Esther Streete at 410-266-9909 or [email protected]