All dogs go to probate court

In dog we trust
By SCOTT FAYNER  |  May 11, 2011

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It's funny: while Massachusetts is considered a vanguard in the struggle for same-sex marriage and mellower pot laws, it has been way behind the pack in implementing pet trusts. But no longer. In January, Governor Deval Patrick — a dog owner himself — signed a law making ours the 45th state to let animal lovers establish a special trust in their pet's name, in the case of emergency or death.

For George Warshaw, it was just in time. A lawyer, he'd already started to draw up his own ad-hoc pet trust for his dog, Bruiser. It wasn't that Warshaw expected to die anytime soon, he explained to an small crowd at a pet-trust seminar at Back Bay's Pawsh Dog Boutique & Salon last week — just that he had begun to think about what would happen to Bruiser if he did.

Bruiser was a rescue, Warshaw says later, a "goofy-looking" dog with "long sideburns" and a bum hip. Warshaw brings him into his real-estate-law office on Newbury Street every day. "He has billable hours," says Warshaw. "He greets people. He smiles."

Now, Warshaw plans to change his practice to focus on pet trusts. "I don't expect to get rich," he says, "I just want to do the right thing by the pets."

Unlike a will, which only kicks into gear after you croak, a pet trust can be executed if you're in a coma, lost at sea, or hugging padded walls. It transfers custody of your pet to a caretaker who, along with a trustee to handle the green, pledges to bestow the same affection upon Missy the Cockapoo that you would. This includes her puppies, if she pops them out after you poop out.

A pet trust covers medical costs, food, day care, maybe even the new refrigerator door you're gonna need after your grief-stricken mastiff tears it off. You can even get a credit card with its picture on it. Too far?

Let's face it: 15,000 years of unbounded loyalty merits more than a pat on the head, a few Milk Bones, and a premature trip to the kiln. Dogs — and to a much lesser extent, cats, horses, and birds — provide an invaluable service to humans, and therefore should be compensated in the event you don't survive a face-off with a truck.

Warshaw says that, after he drew up his own pet trust, he tried to have a serious talk with Bruiser about what it entailed. But Bruiser, it seems, lives for the present.

"You know, he's still young and impressionable," says Warshaw. "He just wants to go out to the club on date night, have a bowl of mimosas with the girls there."

  Topics: This Just In , Deval Patrick, Massachusetts, Politics,  More more >
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