Estate Planning For Pets

A testamentary trust to provide for the care of a pet is now expressly authorized by New Jersey statute. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 3B:11-38, a trust may designate that principal or income may be used for the care of a domesticated animal, and the intended use of that principal or income may be enforced by the trustee or other person appointed by a court. N.J.S.A. 3B:11-38(a). If the trust does not designate a trustee, or if the trustee is unable or unwilling to serve, the court shall appoint a trustee to carry out the intent of the trust. N.J.S.A. 3B:11-38(e). The statute prohibits conversion of any portion of the trust’s principal or income to the use of the trustee, or to any use, other than to benefit the designated pet, unless expressly provided otherwise in the trust. N.J.S.A. 3B:11-38(b).

The statute directs that a pet trust shall terminate when there is no longer a living animal covered by the trust, or after 21 years, whichever occurs earlier. It also provides that the court may reduce the corpus of the trust if it finds that the amount in the trust “substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use.” N.J.S.A. 3B:11-38(d).

Upon the termination of the trust, all unexpended trust property shall be transferred as the trust directs or, if no such direction exists, the balance of the trust passes to the estate of the creator of the trust. N.J.S.A. 3B:11-38(c).