Is Your Beloved Pet Part of Your Estate Plan?

Is Your Beloved Pet Part of Your Estate Plan?

Pets are part of the family, but when it comes to estate planning, many states simply treat them as property. Do you have a plan for your pet? While an oral agreement with family or friends is not legally binding, there are steps you can take to ensure your pet is properly cared for in the event you are unavailable.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has several resources that may be a good place to start. You may request a free pet planning packet including a pet alert card to post on your door. This card alerts first responders or others that there is a pet in your home and names individuals who would provide care in your absence.

Pet Protection Agreements are another step you may take to formalize a plan of care for your pet. A basic document template can be found online and may provide a good starting point to name a guardian or organization to step in on your behalf.

Finally, establishing a pet trust as part of your estate plan may provide additional safeguards for your pet. Similar to a revocable living trust, a pet trust may activate during your lifetime or upon your death. This allows you to provide resources for your pet’s future, including food, medical care, and supplies. Detailed instructions can also be provided to the trustee for specific pet care or food. Keep in mind, pets must be specifically identified in the trust document.

While not all of these steps may be necessary, it is important to have a plan in place to ensure that your animals are looked after properly if you are no longer able to be their primary caregiver.