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Pet Trusts

In April 2009, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill which authorizes statutory pet trusts. D.C. has had such a law for several years.

A statutory pet trust creates an easy and inexpensive way to leave money to care for your pets. Rather than facing the expense and complexity of creating a full trust agreement, you can make a relatively simple statement in your will, such as, "I leave $1,000 in trust for the care of my dog, Spot". State law will "fill in the gaps" so that the simple provision may be effective.

Here's how a pet trust works: You give your pet and enough money or other property to a trusted person (the "trustee") who is under a duty to make arrangements for the proper care of your pet according to your instructions. The trustee will deliver the pet to your designated caregiver (the "beneficiary") and then use the property you transferred to the trust to pay for your pet's expenses.

You should name a "remainder beneficiary" --- that is, someone who will receive any remaining trust property after your pet dies. Many will name a charity rather than the caregiver or trustee for fear that the person will have less an incentive to keep your pet alive.

Both the Maryland and DC laws have the following key features:

  • The animal must be alive during your lifetime.

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