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For a long time, the law on pets in Massachusetts was that they were property.  So a trust for a pet was impossibility, because a piece of property can’t have an enforceable right.    

This has changed now, in Massachusetts.  Your pet can have a bank account.  No, your dog can’t sign a check with a paw print.  But you can set up a bank account with your pet’s name (or your name and “pet trust”) and that money will be available for the care of your pet or pets, regardless of what happens to you.

The relevant provision of the new Pet Trust law is very simple:

Except as expressly provided otherwise in the trust instrument, no portion of the principal or income may be converted to the use of the trustee, other than reasonable trustee fees and expenses of administration, or to any use other than for the benefit of a covered animal or animals.

How would this help, in practice?  Suppose you are a responsible pet owner, and you have thought about who would take your dog, Rover, if anything happened to you.  The only problem is, Rover’s ideal someday “Forever Home” is a long way away, say, in Texas.  

Suppose you get hit by a car.  You don’t come home one day.  Your neighbors hear Rover howling disconsolately and call the police.  The Police start looking for you, and, in the meantime, they call Animal Control to deal with Rover. Suppose you had left a letter directing animal control to contact your friend in Texas.  The only problem is, he can’t instantly take time off from work to go and pick up Rover.  So Rover goes to the pound.  In the ordinary way of things, it would be all up with Rover.  This happens to thousands of animals every year.  If he’s lucky, your friend will eventually be able to get some time off from work, and will be able to fly to Massachusetts in time to rescue Rover.

But what if  you had made a plan including a pet trust?  A letter you have left with the Police and animal control directs them to take Rover to the vet for boarding.  The vet may be named as “temporary trustee,” which allows him to pay the cost of Rover’s care out of the account.  He will also be able to pay in the same way for Rover’s ticket to Texas.  This way, Rover never has to go to the pound.  Your friend doesn’t have to make a mad dash across the country to rescue your dog.  

Which arrangement do you think your friend, and your pet, would prefer?