The Complete Guide to Estate Planning For Pets

Posted by: Erin Ward in Funeral Advice | July 9, 2021

As difficult as it may be to hear, there’s a chance your pet might outlive you. If you’ve never considered this, you might find yourself wondering what happens to pets when their owners die? The sad truth is that thousands of pets are placed in animal shelters every year when their owner passes away. It is estimated that the exact number is between 100,000 and 500,000 animals per year. Of those, roughly 60 percent end up being euthanized when an adequate home cannot be found.


It’s a difficult situation, to say the least, and one that can be easily avoided.


For many people, a pet is more than an animal, they are a part of the family. Estate planning for pets is becoming more and more common as people learn the facts about dying and leaving a pet behind. Studies have shown that up to 27% of pet owners are now including mentions of their pet(s) in their will. Although that represents only a small fraction of pet owners, many others simply have preplanned less formal arrangements for pet care after an owner’s death.


Estate Planning for Pets


It doesn’t take much to ensure that your pet is taken care of should you pass away or become unable to care for them. While it’s recommended that you include pet care after owner’s death as a part of your will, there are other less formal ways to plan ahead as well.


In this section, we’ll discuss how to make sure your pets are taken care of after you pass away.


Choosing a Caregiver

One of the first and most important steps when estate planning for pets is selecting the right person to care for your pet. Not everyone is capable of caring for an animal. Understandably, the person you want to leave your pet to might feel like they aren’t ready for that or simply, don’t want to have that responsibility. It’s important to understand that pet care isn’t for everyone so you need to select someone who is experienced and able to care for an animal.


You want to make sure that you select someone who will treat your pet(s) well and love them just like you did. They should be trustworthy, responsible, and able to provide a safe environment. You might also want to consider selecting a backup caregiver as well. Life can be unpredictable and the original caregiver’s circumstances might change and become unable to care for your pet(s).

Including Your Pet in Your Will

Once you have selected a caregiver for your pet, finalize the arrangement and include it in your will. This ensures that you are leaving formal instructions for who will take custody of the animal after your passing. You may also want to discuss setting up a trust with your attorney. This way you can leave behind funds for the caregiver to help cover the financial costs of a caring for your pet.


Create A Care Package

Once you’ve ensured the care of your pet(s), it’s a good idea to create a care package of instructions. Think of this as a guide for caring for your pet. This should include the following:

  • Medical history
  • Medications and dosages
  • Daily routine
  • Eating habits
  • Sleeping habits
  • Things they like and dislike
  • Grooming tips
  • Recommended exercise
  • End-of-life wishes


Other Things To Consider


Rather than meeting with an attorney to discuss estate planning for pets, you might want to consider creating your own pet care agreement. Although this is less formal than a will, many people come to agreements with a friend or family member. Keep in mind, this should be a written agreement that is shared with others.


After you finish discussing pet care with your selected caregiver, make sure that the agreement is in writing. A verbal agreement proves nothing and the person could end up changing their mind and fail to keep their word.


*Originally published by Brown’s Memorial Funeral Home blog.


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