Vermont has enacted a provision to provide for an enforceable trust to take care of your pets. Under common law, a trust for the benefit of a pet was not enforceable, because a beneficiary of a non-charitable trust was the only one who could enforce the provisions of the trust–and animals have no standing in court. Therefore if you set up a trust for your pet before this statute was enacted, you would have to rely on the trustee’s honor to follow the terms of the trust. The new statute (14A V.S.A. section 408) provides that a trust set up for a pet may be enforced by a person appointed in the trust, or by the probate court. In addition a “person having an interest in the welfare of an animal” may petition probate court to enforce the trust or remove the trustee.
The statute also provides that the trust may cover any pet that you may own at the date of death, and not just pets you own when you create the trust.
In addition, the statute gives probate court power to determine whether the property in the trust exceeds the amount required for the care of the animal. Thus if you give a million dollars in trust for your cat, and make no provision for distribution of the excess funds, the probate court is authorized distribute the excess to your heirs or beneficiaries.
A trust for a pet can be made part of your will. Therefore, if you wish to make provision for your pets, it is good advice to see your attorney about adding a trust provision for your pets to your will.