Estate Planning for Pets

Everyone knows we have two office dogs (shown above, Jack in black and Tort in brown), so it’s no surprise we are dog lovers. We’ve had several clients with cats, birds, turtles, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, and horses. On the more exotic side, we’ve had clients with an alpaca, sharks, an alligator, a hissing cockroach, and snakes. Some clients have had upwards of 30 pets!

But, no matter what type of pet you have – from a dog to a herd of micro pigs – I think we can all agree how important it is to plan for what will happen to your pet should you die or become incapacitated.

One of the biggest things people forget to include when making an estate plan is their pet. Your pets are an important part of your life. Don’t reward their love and companionship (or in the case of cats, aloofness and indifference) over your lifetime with poor planning and a trip to the pound! Be a good pet owner and provide for their care and upkeep after your death or incapacity.

Adding a pet provision to your will or trust is easy to do. Judges are pet lovers, too, and will enforce any valid provision for your pets. You simply need to make your wishes clear, but not too detailed. For example, don’t provide the names of your pets or require them to go to any particular relative. Unfortunately, our pets rarely live as long as we do, and it would be a pain to update your will or trust to accommodate new and old pets (or even worse, forget to update it!). Family situations change, as well – don’t bank on your brother being willing and able to take care of your dog forever!

Keep in mind: no one is going to love your pet as much as you do. Your family probably is not eager to take in another pet unexpectedly; particularly a pet they have not picked out and trained themselves. Furthermore, your pet also comes with a bundle of expenses (food, medications, vet visits), and a financial incentive could make all the difference between someone taking your pet in or surrendering it.

With that in mind, consider how much your pet costs to maintain at its current standard of living every month, your pet’s temperament and behavior around others, and factor in potential for expensive medical treatments. You are, in effect, paying someone to take care of your animal when you cannot.

Even if you don’t have the financial wherewithal to lavish your pet’s new owner with a $10,000 bequest, simply acknowledging that you have pets and your wishes for them will go a long way to ensuring their security.

Do you want your pet to go to someone in your family?

To go to a specific shelter or rescue group if unable to be re-homed?

Is it okay for your pets to be separated, or do you want them to stay together?

We are pet lovers and understand your love and desire to protect your pet (yes, even if you have cats). We would love to add a pet provision to your existing will or trust, or we can create an entirely new estate plan for you which has such a provision.

Disclaimer: The choice of an attorney is an important one and should not be based solely on advertisements such as this one. All statements are of opinion only. No attorney client relationship is formed until you have received a signed engagement letter from our firm.