The state of Maryland recognizes pet trusts if they are set up properly. A pet trust is a legal instrument, funded by assets, that specifies how your pet should be cared for should you die or become disabled. In the pet trust you designate a person, “trustee”, to handle the money in the trust according to your instructions for the benefit of your pet(s). You can also designate a separate pet caretaker who actually takes possession of the pets. The trustee and pet caretaker can be separate individuals or the same person.
To fund the trust, you should take into consideration the life expectancy of the pet, and the amount of money needed to cover food, pet-sitting, veterinary bills and incidentals. You should try to fund the trust as closely to this estimated cost as possible. You want to ensure the caretaker has what he or she needs to provide for the pet.
If the trust runs out of money, the trustee/caretaker may choose to continue to provide for the pet from their own funds, but they are under no obligation to do so. It is wise to indicate a ‘care of last resort’ provision that designates alternative care providers should the trust become underfunded and/or the caretaker is no longer willing or able to provide services.
If the trust is overfunded and there are funds remaining after the pet dies, you should also designate another beneficiary as the trust remainderman. You should avoid naming the caretaker as the remainderman beneficiary because it may conflict with their ability to provide the best, and often more expensive, care options.
To include your pets in your estate plan, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599 in the Greater Baltimore area.