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State Governor Signs Pet Trust Legislation

Some Massachusetts pet owners breathed a sigh of relief last week after Governor Deval Patrick signed a much anticipated piece of pet trust legislation. The legislation authorizes trusts to be created for the care of a pet or pets after if pet owner were to die or become disabled. The new law goes into effect 90 days after last Friday the 7th, the date the legislation was signed.

Massachusetts has lagged behind 43 other states and the District of Columbia in this facet of estate planning, all of which have similar legislation in place to afford pet owners the option to create enforceable trusts that set their pet(s) as a beneficiary as well as stipulating a caretaker for the animal(s). New Jersey has had such legislation on the books since 2001. See N.J. Stat. Ann. ยง 3B:11-38 for more details.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was particularly enthused at the fact that the legislation passed last week. The society released a statement, saying that pet owners in the state will no longer have to worry about how effectively or to what extent directives regarding animal companions will be carried out upon the person's death or disablement.

The bill was introduced back in January of 2009 because there was no legal recourse at the time to prevent money left in trust to a pet from being used for an unintended purpose. Dubbed "An Act Relative to Trusts for the Care of Animals," the legislation does afford the courts to intervene if the amount the owner leaves in trust for the pet is deemed "excessive."

Sources:

  • Boston Herald "Gov. Deval Patrick signs pet trust and other bills" 1/8/11
  • Westlaw News & Insight "Massachusetts pet lovers hope to get new law on wills" 1/5/11

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