Planning for Pets


So often animals are left behind without having been considered in estate planning.  Many end up in shelters due to failed arrangements or agreements. As a part of your estate plan, we encourage you to consider how your fur babies will be cared for if you become incapacitated or upon your death.  Your pets have earned a special place in your heart, so ensuring that someone else will care for them when you no longer can, and the caregiver has the proper funds, is important. We can help.  It can be something very simple, like enrolling your pet in a guardianship program sponsored by a local animal welfare organization so that your pet can be re-homed in a caring and expeditious manner.  Alternatively, if you have a person who has agreed to care for your pet, you may want to include that information in your estate planning documents and consider leaving that person some funds to defray the costs of caring for your pet.  Having a back-up plan if that person cannot take your pet is also important.

Some pet parents like the idea of creating a pet trust for Fido or Fluffy.  This type of trust can guarantee that your wishes for your beloved pet are carried out, with money set aside for their care. This can be particularly helpful if your pet has to be re-homed through a local animal shelter or rescue in the event that a friend or family member cannot commit to your pet’s care.  

You can create a pet trust in a will or in a separate trust document.  In a pet trust, you can name someone as your pet’s caregiver, appoint a trustee to manage funds you set aside, and provide instructions to guide the trustee in making distributions.   The trustee is legally responsible for making sure that the caregiver uses the money according to your instructions. This might include food, veterinary care, medications, and any other costs over your pet’s life.  If there are funds remaining when your pet passes, a remainder beneficiary is named, including, if you like, an animal welfare organization.

Many of you know that our office has a team of furry, four-legged ambassadors, so we understand the importance of caring for those loved ones as part of your plan.  We understand that they are more than just pets–they are family.

Disclaimers: This material is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this material does not create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed here are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinion of the firm or any other individual attorney. Any tax advice contained in this communication is not intended to be sided, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties.