On the Pet Trust and Life under the <del>Thumb</del> Rule of a Despotic Kitty
My cat is a tyrant.
She reigns over a dominion that includes an entire floor of the house, a collection of German toys of unfathomable complexity in both engineering and name, and an entire family of cowering subjects to do her dastardly feline bidding. She even has a throne – a cat-shaped indent in the center cushion of the couch – from which she surveys her empire, upon which neither sun nor vacuum ever (successfully) manages to set.
Her name is Amelia and if she had thumbs I would no longer have a purpose in life, since the can openers are the only ones brave or stupid enough to defy her meow.
And though we are ruled with a declawed iron paw, my family has developed a sort of Kitty Stockholm Syndrome.
We’ve come to consider her as more an acutely particular in-law or especially fickle toddler than just some totalitarian oppressor – if such a distinction can be made.
In short, she is family (just as much as my kids and my in-laws, at least) and should be afforded a corresponding degree of consideration in both our living room seating arrangement and our estate plan.
If that sounds strange, consider just how challenging it is to make peace with someone that you have just bodily ejected from a sleeping position. If including your pet in your estate plan is the part that sounds strange, consider a Maryland pet trust.
The Maryland pet trust law, MD EST & TRST § 14-112, passed in 2009, mirrors those of 43 other states that allow assets to be set aside specifically for the care of your pet should it outlive you. We already have an entire webpage devoted to providing information on how to create a pet trust so I won’t rehash it here.
The gist is that you appoint a number of people (two or three) to serve in various roles for your pet. Usually, there is a trustee who ensures that the money in the trust is used for the care of the animal, a caregiver who actually uses that money to look after the animal, and a beneficiary to whom the funds remaining are dispensed after the animal’s death. Maryland has learned from the mistakes of other states that conflated these roles, often to the detriment of the pet.
This may sound apochryphal – I just can’t be bothered to navigate to Google right now to cite a specific incident – but there have been instances of individuals who simply had the inherited pet terminated by a local pound or veterinarian in order to immediately access the funds in trust for their own benefit. Fortunately, if the trust is drawn up properly this can be avoided and you can rest easy knowing that your beloved feline (or canine or equine, etc.) overlord will be cared for in your absence.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll be any more satisfied with the quality of your daily subservience. Just look at what happens when you try explaining trust law to a cat.
Funny, my kids had the same response.
Good luck and good hunting.
If you’re interested in setting up a trust to take care of your cat, dog, horse, wallaby, or other pet, find out how to reach us at our website: TheFisherLawOffice.com. You can also contact us at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice. If you want particular advice on surviving the tyranny of a cat, a patriarchy, or even a bedbug occupation, you’d best consult the Arts and Cats Movement.