Animal Law Review

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Nearly three-fourths of American households include pets. Often, these pets are considered to be members of the family and are cared for as such. When a pet owner dies, however, questions often arise as to who will be responsible for continuing to care for the animals. Previously, probate and trust laws did not allow pet owners to provide for the care of their pets after death. In 1990, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) enacted the first pet trust statute in the Uniform Probate Code. Since then, the NCCUSL passed the Uniform Trust Code, which included a pet trust provision, and currently forty-six states and the District of Columbia have passed statutes specific to pet trusts. These laws are designed to create enforceable trusts for the care of animals after an owner’s death. Variations in these statutes across jurisdictions, however, lead to situations where a pet owner’s wishes may not be honored or enforced. This Article analyzes the statutory language found in the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Trust Code, and various state statutes relating to pet trusts. This Article identifies the strengths, weaknesses, and purposes of the pet trust statutes, and it concludes with a draft of improved pet trust legislation that will be beneficial to pet owners, trustees, caretakers, and pets alike.

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