Planning for Pets: Maryland Authorizes Statutory Pet Trusts

Great news and information for anyone interested in including their pets into their estate plan!  This April, Governor O’Malley signed into law HB 149, which will allow statutory pet trusts in the State of Maryland. 

Key Components of HB 149 (These provisions apply only to pet trusts created on or after October 1, 2009.)

  • The animal must be alive during the settlor’s lifetime.
  • The trust ends at the death of the last animal covered by the trust.
  • If the settlor did not appoint someone to enforce the trust, the court may appoint an enforcer.
    A person with an interest in the welfare of the animal may ask the court to appoint an enforcer or to remove an enforcer who is not doing his/her job.
  • Trust property may be used only for the pet’s benefit unless the court finds that the value of the trust property is excessive.
  • 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.
  • The Rule Against Perpetutities does not apply to pet trusts.

Benefits of a Pet Trust

  • Ensures your pets will be cared for, as you yourself have cared for them
  • Ensures that there are funds available and a care taking system is in place
  • Appoints a caregiver and at least one backup caregiver
  • Appoints a Trustee to make sure that the care giver is doing his or her job
  • Protects the money designated for the pet and ensures that it lasts for the duration of the pet’s life
  • Gives directions regarding health care needs, exercise needs, diet needs, preferred veterinarian, and burial/cremation plans for your pet
  • Provides that any funds remaining in trust at the death of the pet goes to charity or a family member
  • Provides a method for finding a caretaker in the event that the caretaker or the back-up caretaker you have selected is unavailable
  • Assets in a pet trust are NOT subject to the caregiver’s creditors, marital disputes, or bankruptcy. (Alternatively, if you leave an outright gift of money to a person in your will in exchange for the care of yur pet, the money will go to that person’s heirs or beneficiaries at his or her death and will not be available to care for the pet).
  • You can provide for a temporary emergency/caregiver in the event that something unexpected happens to you providing them with keys to your home, feeding and care instructions, the name of your veterinarian, and information about permanent care instructions.
  • Planning can lead to peace of mind, reducing the anxiety that many pet owners experience when they envision their beloved pet living without them
  • There is no assurance that if you leave money to someone outright to care for your pet that they will do what was promised
  • To ensure that certain people are notified, so your pet’s care will not be interrupted
  • To ensure that caretakers are pre-selected by you
  • To provide a source of funds for your pet’s care
  • To inform future caretakes of your pet’s care instructions, likes and dislikes, and your wishes as to your pet’s burial and cremation
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