Pets are seen as members of the family in many households. That said, in the United States, legally, pets are considered physical possessions. So if you have a pet, you should include plans for their care in your end-of-life plan.

Can I include my pets in my will?

You can designate in your will a specific person to care for your pet in the event of your death. You can also designate funds to that person to cover the cost of whatever care, food, and supplies your pet may need in the future.

You cannot leave money or assets in your will to a pet. They are not legal persons and cannot directly own property.

What is a pet trust?

A pet trust is another way to plan for the care of your pet after your death. The ASPCA explains:

A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals in the event of a grantor’s disability or death. A pet trust can be very specific, including detailed requirements for the care of your pet, and it’s a legally binding agreement. In other words, unlike a will, the funds you designate for your pet’s care must be used in exactly the way that you designate. 

How do I create a pet trust?

You would need to work with an attorney to create a pet trust. The ASPCA publishes a guide to state laws for pet trusts to help you understand the requirements in your state.

What if I don’t trust someone to care for my pets?

There are other options if there isn’t someone you would entrust with the care of your pet. There are animal charities that help arrange care for pets after the death of their owner. Pet Peace of Mind is one such nonprofit organization that helps seriously ill patients care for their pets, including helping to find a placement in a new home if and when needed. 

Can I have my pet put down after I die?

There have been a handful of highly publicized cases in which the will of a pet owner included directions for euthanizing their pets. Ultimately, the courts invalidated these directives when it became clear that there were suitable placements available for the animals’ continued care. An attorney can help you understand the laws in your state about pet euthanasia and end-of-life planning.

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