The Eleff Law Group

Estate Planning For Your Pets As Well As Your Family

Entrusting Your Pet's Care

Is your pet a part of your family? Pets are a great source of comfort, stress relief, and joy. Just as you want to provide for your friends and family if you are disabled or after you pass away, it is natural that you wish to do the same for your beloved pet. So, how do you go about doing it?

Unlike your human family members, your pet is considered a part of your personal property. Just like any other object you own, you can leave your pet to a friend or family member to take care of after you die, and you can gift or entrust the pet to someone during your lifetime. You can also leave a monetary bequest to your successor pet-owner, and state your intent that the funds be used to cover pet needs. However, if you are a Maryland resident who wishes to ensure that the person caring for your pet has the resources to pay for regular vet checkups, medical bills, and other related expenses, the Maryland legislature has provided a formal way to do just that. There are similar statutes in most other states, and you can check on the law in your own state.

Maryland Pet Trusts

Maryland's statute authorizing the creation of a trust for the care of an animal was enacted in 2009. That law allows you, as a Maryland resident, to create a trust during your life that will ensure that your pet will be properly taken care of in the event of your disability or subsequent death. The trust will terminate upon the death of your pet (or the case of a trust to care for numerous pets, the death of the last living pet). Upon the trust's termination, you can direct how you wish to have the remaining proceeds to be distributed.

Limitations

However, there are a few restrictions to keep in mind. First, the trust can only be used for pets that you own during your lifetime. Therefore, if you had a dog that had a litter of puppies after your death, the trust could be used for the support of the mother but not be for the puppies. In addition, the trust can only be funded to the extent as needed for the actual care of your pet. If you leave millions of dollars to care for your pet, a court could remove some of those funds and apply them for your support, in the event that you are alive and require it, or to the animal trust's residuary beneficiaries. While Maryland law allows you to generously provide for the care of your pets, it considers extravagant spending on them to be wasteful, which the law is intended to discourage. If you have pets and wish to learn how to provide for their long term care, and the tax effects, contact an experienced estate planning attorney to get further details.

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