Pets and Estate Planning

When putting together an estate plan, there are many factors to take into consideration—where your assets and finances will go, who will have the responsibility to take care of you if you should become incapacitated, etc. If you own any pets, you may be concerned for their well-being as well. Making plans for your pets if you should pass on or become incapacitated is as much a matter of estate planning as anything else.

Care Options

You have a number of options when it comes to making provisions for your pets in your estate plan, but there is one point to remember: you cannot directly leave your pet money in your will. They are considered property in the eyes of the law, and your plans will have to be designed around that.

That said, you have a number of options when it comes to providing for your pets after you pass on. These include:

  • Informal arrangements
  • Leaving them to loved ones in your will
  • Creating a pet trust
  • These each have their advantages, and it will be important to choose the right option for your situation.

Informal Arrangements

The simplest arrangements you can make for your pets are informal arrangements with family, friends, or an organization. This is done simply by talking with that party and giving your executor instructions about what should be done with your pet. This doesn’t involve any legal formalities, so it’s generally reserved for situations in which you trust the party who will be entrusted with your pet and when everyone involved is in agreement.


You can make provisions for your pets in your will, leaving them to a designated beneficiary. This is done in a manner similar to how you’d deal with any other assets in your will. In addition, you may choose to leave a certain amount of money to provide for your pet’s care. However, this is not enforceable—the beneficiary is not legally bound to use the money for the care and maintenance of your pet, even though you may specify such as its purpose.

A Pet Trust

The most secure way to provide for your pet—though also the most complex—is through trust. A pet trust leaves your pet with a designated beneficiary as well as money and instructions for its care and maintenance. In the trust, you’ll specify:

  • The pet(s) to be covered by the trust
  • The caretaker
  • Instructions for the care of the pet(s)
  • Amount of money to be used for the pet’s care
  • Instructions for how remaining money should be used if any is left after the pet’s death
  • Name of who should enforce the trust if such should be deemed necessary
  • This method gives the beneficiary a legal obligation to care for your pet and use the designated funding to that end.

Legal Advising

When putting together any aspect of your estate plan, consulting with an experienced lawyer is a must, especially if you wish to construct a pet trust. Hart David Carson, LLP, can assist you through the process of providing for your pets in your estate plan.

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