VA Pet Trusts, Code §§ 55-544.02, 55-544.08 and 55-541.10 

55-544.02. Requirements for creation. 

A. A trust is created only if: 

1. The settlor has capacity to create a trust; 

2. The settlor indicates an intention to create the trust; 

3. The trust has a definite beneficiary or is: 

a. A charitable trust; 

b. A trust for the care of an animal, as provided in § 55-544.08; or 

c. A trust for a non-charitable purpose, as provided in § 55-544.09

4. The trustee has duties to perform; and 

5. The same person is not the sole trustee and sole beneficiary. 

B. A beneficiary is definite if the beneficiary can be ascertained now or in the future, subject to any applicable rule against perpetuities. 

C. A power in a trustee to select a beneficiary from an indefinite class is valid. If the power is not exercised within a reasonable time, the power fails and the property subject to the power passes to the persons who would have taken the property had the power not been conferred. 

(2005, c. 935.) 

§ 55-544.08. Trust for care of animal. 

A. A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor's lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor's lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal. Funds from the trust may be applied to any outstanding expenses of the trust and for burial or other post death expenditures for animal beneficiaries as provided for in the instrument creating the trust. 

B. The instrument creating the trust shall be liberally construed to bring the transfer within the scope of trusts governed by this section, to presume against the merely precatory or honorary nature of the disposition, and to carry out the general intent of the transferor. Extrinsic evidence is admissible in determining the transferor's intent. 

C. A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is so appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed. The appointed person shall have the rights of a trust beneficiary for the purpose of enforcing the trust, including receiving accountings, notices, and other information from the trustee and providing consents. Reasonable compensation for a person appointed by the court may be paid from the assets of the trust. 

D. Except as ordered by a court or required by the trust instrument, no filing, report, registration, periodic accounting, separate maintenance of funds, appointment, or surety bond shall be required by reason of the existence of the fiduciary relationship of the trustee. 

E. Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to its intended use, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use shall be distributed to the settlor, if then living. If the settlor is deceased, such property shall be distributed pursuant to the residuary clause of the settlor's will if the trust for the animal was created in a preresiduary clause in the will or pursuant to the residuary provisions of the inter vivos trust if the trust for the animal was created in a preresiduary clause in the trust instrument; otherwise, such property shall be distributed to the settlor's successors in interest. 

§ 55-541.10. Others treated as qualified beneficiaries. 

A. Whenever notice to qualified beneficiaries of a trust is required under this chapter, the trustee shall also give notice to any other beneficiary who has sent the trustee a request for notice. 

B. A charitable organization expressly designated to receive distributions under the terms of a charitable trust has the rights of a qualified beneficiary under this chapter if the charitable organization, on the date of the charitable organization's qualification is being determined: 

1. Is a distributee or permissible distributee of trust income or principal; 

2. Would be a distributee or permissible distributee of trust income or principal upon the termination of the interests of other distributees or permissible distributees then receiving or eligible to receive distributions; or 

3. Would be a distributee or permissible distributee of trust income or principal if the trust terminated on that date. 

C. A person appointed to enforce a trust created for the care of an animal or another noncharitable purpose as provided in §55-544.08 or 55-544.09 has the rights of a qualified beneficiary under this chapter. 

D. The attorney general of the Commonwealth has the rights of a qualified beneficiary with respect to a charitable trust having its principal place of administration in the Commonwealth but need not be given notices or information required under §§ 55-547.05 and 55-548.13 unless otherwise requested. 

] CLE presented to lawyers nationwide by teleconference in February 2011 by Richard Mayberry, Trusts, Estates & Elder Law, 2010 Corporate Ridge, Suite 700, McLean VA 22102 (703) 714.1554 Mayberry@MayberryLawFirm.comwww.MayberryLawFirm.com


[1] Pet Airways, a new pet-only airline that will offer cross-country flights for pets only, is using social media to help promote its new brand and to help with animal adoption through a new partnership with pet-focused ad network DogTime Media. The idea behind the partnership is to extend the reach of DogTime Media's DogFinder pet adoption program, a Web site that helps connect pets with owners and encourages consumers to look beyond their local regions for pets available for adoption, because pets now can be flown. Traditionally, consumers look for pets within 50 miles of their homes. 

[2] See e.g. The Power of Pets: Creating a Connection By Barbara Worthington on the Aging Well website found at http://www.agingwellmag.com/news/exclusive_06.shtml

[3] Cats & Lowering Blood Pressure in Humans byRachel Schwartz, eHow Contributor, updated: March 12, 2010, see http://www.ehow.com/about_6062567_cats-lowering-blood-pressure-humans.html

[4] Many households have multiple pets. This conforms with the writer’s observations while teaching  “Pet Trusts” in Northern Virginia adult education classes. The statistics cited are gathered from American Pet Products Association’s [“APPA”] 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey and can be found at http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp. According to the APPA, “[t]he Survey monitors consumer habits on an ongoing basis in order to identify short and long-term trends in pet ownership, product and service consumption, and lifestyle and media habits. In addition to providing an expanded set of valuable in-depth statistics on current pet owner purchasing habits, this study pinpoints preferences on specific services, retail outlets and dollar amount spent per product category and retail outlet… [The Survey] is a Lifestyle and Media Study which examines pet owners in easily understood consumer segments. The segments are defined in terms of what motivates pet ownership and relationships with pets, along with lifestyle and other demographic criterion.http://www.americanpetproducts.org/pubs_survey.asp 

[5] APPA statistics, http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp