Estate Planning for Pets


Carol J. Donaldson

What will happen to your dogs, cats, horses or other pets if you become incapacitated by injury or illness ending up in a nursing center or if you pass away?  Will your animal be thrown into a backyard by uncaring relatives; let loose in the neighborhood to fend for himself or turned into a kill shelter ?  If you do not have written instructions in place, all of this can happen.

Whether you are 18  or 100 you must give careful consideration for the care of your pets when you are no longer there. Very important that your instructions are written in  a separate document from your will.

Speak with family members or friends, who you know care for animals the same way you do.  Ask them if they will take your pet for its lifetime. If yes have a written agreement. In the agreement list a description of the animal; micro chip number; vaccinations and veterinarian information; any allergies to vaccinations or food; what they are fed and how many times a day they are fed; the likes and dislikes of the animal; trained to what commands and your instructions on the treatment and care of your pet.  Also discussed and listed, should be what happens to your pet if they can no longer care for it.

Periodically check with the person to see if they are still willing to assume care of your pets. Things may have changed. They may have gotten married, have too many animals, moved to an apartment or their health has changed. Talk to more then one family member or friend to have alternates lined up.

Do not expect your family and friends to take on the care of your animals without monies provided food and related expenses. Will you have funds set aside in a savings account or a small life insurance policy - how will you fund the care of your animal?

Now you can legally protect your animals with a pet trust.  Pet trust laws have been set up in all fifty states to make sure your pets are provided the way you wish. This is a statutory  trust, which takes place in the event you are unable to care for your animals or pass away.  A pet trust ends when the last surviving animal passes away.

In this trust you chose the trustee, the caretaker, leave detailed instructions for the care of your animals and decide how the trust is funded.  As in any trust there can be multiple people involved.  There is a trustee and a caretaker specified by you or your trustee can hire a caretaker and he will dispense the monies as needed for the care of your animals.  The trustee also checks and make sure that those animals are being treated according to your wishes.  The trustee must honor the terms of the trust or the court can appoint a new trustee. There are online forms that you can complete or you can contact an attorney. An attorney can also review the trust to make sure it is set up correctly.  Make sure you research and think this through very carefully as you are entrusting the care of your animal to someone for its lifetime.

There are a few humane societies that for financial consideration take your pets for their lifetime. Check these out very carefully as there are many who are nothing more then a chamber of horrors. Humane societies can also help your family to place your animals in new homes, some will place bonded animals together.

Regardless of whether or not  you use a pet trust, make sure that those around you know your wishes concerning your animals, in the event of being incapacitated or deceased.  Most importantly write out your wishes and post them in a conspicuous spot, on a bright piece of paper. 

Pin It

You have to log in or create an account and log in to post comments. Click here to login or register