The “Pet Trust statute” in New Jersey, first enacted in 2001, should be amended to reflect current concerns and those which are reasonably foreseeable so that pet owners’ intentions can be honored for the care of their pets when they are no longer able to provide that care. These amendments include: deleting the current 21 year limitation for the duration of the trust; clarifying which animals can be designated in the trust; adding the option of drafting an inter vivos trust (enabling care of pets when an owner is temporarily or permanently incapacitated); clarifying that only the owner of the designated animal(s) can establish such a trust; and permitting the trust to cover the offspring of designated animals under certain conditions.
New Jersey is one of the majority of states with a statute validating trusts for the care of certain designated animals (the “Pet Trust statute”). The Michigan State University College of Law maintains a website that tracks the language of the state statutes.
MANY PETS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS LIVE LONGER THAN 21 YEARS
Like many other states, New Jersey should consider deleting the current 21 year limitation for the duration of the trust in its Pet Trust statute. Many animals that can be legally owned in New Jersey live longer than 21 years, including: horses, parrots, and macaws. Additionally, other common pets, like cats, can live for more than 21 years. Therefore, limiting a pet trust to just 21 years simply does not make sense. Any pet owner who went to the trouble of creating a trust for their pets would want that trust to provide for the care of their pets for the remainder of the pet’s life. Several states with similar restrictions have amended their statutes accordingly, based on the same reasoning.
At the same time, with advancing scientific technology, it makes sense to prohibit the trust from extending it to pets who are reproduced by cloning, or other similarly artificial means of reproduction. If not, a trust could potentially extend forever, which many would find objectionable, compared with permitting the trust to provide for the life of the designated animal, even if for more than 21 years.
The benefit of establishing a trust to provide for your pet has been previously discussed here. Anyone interested should contact us to discuss the best way to make certain that your pet is cared for when you are no longer able to provide that care yourself.