How to Include Your Pet in Your End of Life Planning


Do you know what will happen to your pet if you pass away or become incapacitated? Have you told your wishes to anyone else? Does your job offer unique employee benefits, such as a pet-friendly office, that has you thinking of getting a pet? While we’d hate to think about our pets being without us, we need to ensure their safety and survival in the event the unthinkable happens. 

According to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet.” Pet parents are just like every other parent; they care about their children and want them to be set up if they pass away. Unfortunately, it’s not as common as it should be for pet parents to create a legally binding plan for their pet. Perhaps you’re a young pet parent, and you don’t think it’s necessary. However, you simply never know what could happen in the future, so it’s never too soon to start planning for your pet

It may be difficult to think about, but imagine what would happen if you passed away and none of your friends or family were willing or able to take him or her in. Your dog would likely end up in an animal shelter without a home. 

Without the proper plans lined out for your pet and funds set aside, you simply don’t know what will happen to your pet. Lucky, you can start taking steps today to ensure your pet is provided for no matter what. 

Including Your Pet in a Will

There are a variety of different types of wills available for you to get started on that can benefit your pet. Within your will, you can add a pet trust. This legal plan provides your pet with care and maintenance in the event of your death. Pet trusts are recognized in most states, but you can talk to an attorney who specializes in wills to make sure that your pet can be included in your will. 

A pet trust can be its own separate document or another part of your larger will. In fact, some people who don’t have family or are on the outs with their family choose to make their pet the sole beneficiary of all of their money. While this might cause problems with family members, do what you think is right and ensure that your pet is taken care of. 

Setting up a Pet Trust

Now that you know they exist, you can set up a pet trust by contacting a family attorney or law firm that specializes in pet trusts. A quick online search should point you in the right direction. 

Pets in End of Life Planning

As more and more people opt to have fur children instead of actual children, we expect to see an increase in pet trusts. Pet lovers will increasingly want to have pet language in all matters of their end-of-life planning and estate planning documents. 

Who Can Create Pet Trust?

While creating a pet trust may sound like something only the rich can afford to do, anyone can do it. Anyone who owns pets and wants them cared for no matter what can put their pets in their will the same way you would do for a child. 

What to Include in Your Pet Trust

When you’re putting together a pet trust or adding your pet to your will, it’s best to be as specific as possible and update it frequently. You can include things like the food your dog eats, his or her daily routine, and funds to provide for the needs of the pet. 

How Much Money Should You Set Aside?

If you do have heirs that you’ll be including in your will, you may not want to give too much away to the dog because your children will have the right to legally battle over the funds. However, you should always set aside enough in your pet trust to cover your pet’s needs. Consider the following:

  • Your pet’s current monthly costs
  • Your pet’s age and life expectancy
  • Your pet’s health
  • Burial and cremation costs

Who Will Care for Your Pet?

In your trust, you will identify the person who will be your pet’s guardian. You can also identify a person responsible for the management of funds and administration of the will and trust. Make sure that you approach each person and ask them formally in the case that they’re unable to take care of your pet if you pass away. 

Be thoughtful when selecting these people. Make sure that you choose those who are animal-lovers and will respect and take care of your dog physically and emotionally. Make sure that when you discuss the care of your pets that you make sure that the person you choose will be able to take on the extra responsibility. 

You should have multiple people involved to be caretaker, trustee, and executor to ensure checks and balance, but it’s recommended to talk to everyone at the same time so that they know what to expect. 

Mitigate Problems When You Can

While there’s no guarantee for anything that will happen after you’re gone, there are ways to mitigate problems before they arise. The best thing you can do is communicate what your plan is with friends and family, especially the people who will be responsible for the overall wellbeing of your beloved pet. Make sure that the trustee knows that they must provide the funds for all pet bills, including hospital bills, so that there aren’t problems down the line. 

Adding Your Pet to Your Will

If you want to make sure that your will is allowed in court and your pet is taken care of, it’s always best to work with a lawyer that specializes in pet trusts. They can help you avoid all of the pitfalls they’ve seen from experience working on these cases and ensure that your pet gets the best care after you’re gone. 

Pets are our family members and deserve to be treated as such. Make sure that you have a detailed plan for how your pet will be cared for after you pass away. 

Matt Casadona

Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. He is currently a contributing editor for 365 Business Tips. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys the San Diego life, traveling and music. 

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