One of the most bittersweet aspects of being a pet owner is knowing that, in most cases, humans will outlive their animal companions by many years or even decades. But while you may frequently think about – and likely dread – the day when your furry friend’s time will come, many pet owners neglect to consider what will become of their pets if something should ever happen to them.
Pets are dependent creatures who rely on their owners for their care. If you can no longer provide that care, you must provide provisions for your pets as you would your family in your estate plan to ensure they have protections. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee that a friend or relative will assume responsibility for your pet’s needs or be able to afford it.
If you don’t want to leave the fate of your pet’s care up to the court when you’re gone, here are two ways you can ensure they’re included in your end-of-life plans:
1. Including pets in your will
While you can’t leave your pet money or property in a will, you can arrange to leave them to a trusted friend or relative. You can also specify if you’d like to leave any money to your pet’s caretaker for the ongoing care and maintenance of your furry friend.
Though this option is a straightforward way to include your pet in your estate plan, it does have some limitations. For example, there would be no legal recourse if the person you chose as your pet’s caretaker decided to spend the money left for your pet on something else. If you include your pet in your will, make sure to choose someone you can trust to prioritize your animal’s well-being.
2. Establishing a pet trust
If you want more control and reassurance over the care of your pet when you’re gone, a pet trust may be the right option for you. Unlike providing for your pet in a will, a pet trust is a legally enforceable arrangement for the duration of your pet’s life. The instructions you provide in your pet trust can be as simple or specific as you want for your pet, and may include things like:
- Your pet’s standard of living and care requirements
- How funds should be distributed for your pet’s caregiver
- What to do with any remaining funds
- Funeral arrangements for your pet
Too often, pet parents overlook accounting for the needs of pets in their estate plan. If you consider your pet to be family, including them in your will or establishing a pet trust can give you peace of mind.