Articles & Publications

In Animals We Trust

Posted March 7, 2013 by Kimberly Jones, Intern in Articles & Publications, Business Publications

The recent broadcast of the Westminster Dog Show calls to mind my own lovable canine companion, Lady. She is a miniature dachshund that is spoiled rotten by everyone that meets her; she just has that effect.

Without a doubt, Lady is family. She has a special diet, enjoys shopping for toys, loves to socialize; goes to the doctor; has her teeth cleaned regularly; goes to the salon and spa for beauty maintenance; has graduated from school; and has birth records as well as other documentation. Caring for Lady is like caring for a toddler that never grows up; she has all of the personality, but little ability to care of herself. Plus, her care is expensive.

Lady is not the only pampered pet in the country. According to the American Pet Products Association, which regularly tracks trends in American pet ownership, pet owners across the country annually spend billions of dollars on the care of their beloved animal friends. See the statistics here.

Given that many make such financial commitments to our non-human companions, many wish to also provide for their care after they have passed away. Many feel that it is prudent to know that their Lady will be cared for. But, how will a caretaker be able to afford Lady's needs? How much money will Lady need to live the rest of her life in the manner to which she is accustomed?

Maryland law for estates and trusts does not permit animals, i.e. property, to inherit money or assets. Therefore, prior to 2009 the only way to provide for your beloved animal after death was to bequest him or her to a (human) beneficiary in a will. The problem with this is that if the beneficiary does not have the means to care for your animal, then you may be imposing an expensive burden on your beneficiary.

In 2009, Maryland enacted § 14-112 of the Maryland Estates & Trusts Code to allow for the financial care of animals through a trust. As in a trust for a person, a trustee can be designated to manage the finances and care of an animal.

Section 14-112 does not limit the use of such a trust to "pets"; "animals" in general may also be covered. Animal lovers may leave money in trust to any animal that may be cared for financially by any person or organization; such as a zoo animals, or wildlife sanctuary. As long as the animal was alive during your lifetime and is identifiable for the purposes of providing care to the correct animal, then Maryland Estates and Trusts § 14-112 permits the creation of an animal welfare trust.

For many, a trust to provide for the cost of caring for our pets and animal friends after we are gone is comforting. Section 14-112 of the Maryland Estates & Trusts Code provides a means to do so.