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Estate Planning for Pet Parents by Ann-Marie Fleming

02 December, 2019


As hard as it is, every dog parent knows that their beloved pet will one day no longer be with them. But we rarely think about the possibility that our pets might outlive us. No one wants to think about leaving their pets behind, but the reality is that our dogs are living longer. It’s important to plan ahead for the worst to give your pet the best possible future. This is even more important for the parents of senior dogs and animals. Given their additional challenges and needs, you’ll need to be more diligent about pet estate planning in order to protect them. 

Dog Quality is committed to improving the quality of life for senior dogs — including in the unfortunate circumstance that your pet is left without their loving owner. That’s why we created this guide to estate planning for pet parents, particularly parents of senior dogs. If you haven’t yet considered what will happen to your dog in case of your death, here’s how to make sure they are taken care of for the rest of their days.


How to Include Your Pet in Your Will

Even though it can be disconcerting to plan for your own death, most people know to write a will to ensure their spouses, children and loved ones are taken care of once they pass. Your furry friend is just as much a part of your family as anyone else, so it only makes sense to include your pet in your will, too.

So how do you write your pet into your will? Obviously, you can’t leave your worldly possessions to your pup, but with some proper planning, you can make sure your pet is well looked after for the rest of his life. Here are some ways to include your pet in your will:

  • Leave instructions for who will be responsible for your pet if you die. Create a plan with a trusted family member or friend who is willing to take care of your pet in the event of your death. That way, you know your pet will be in good hands once you pass. You may even want to include a secondary caregiver, in case your primary choice isn’t able to take care of your pet.
  • Leave resources to your pet’s new caregiver. While you can’t leave money to your pets, you can set them up for a wonderful life by leaving funds to their new caregiver. This way, you’ll know that your friend or family member has the resources they need to maintain your pup’s quality of life. If you have a senior dog with special needs, like medications or surgeries, this should be high on your priority list.

How to Set Up a Pet Trust

It’s important for pet parents to understand that even if you allocate money in your will to be used for your pet’s care, your pet’s new guardian is under no legal obligation to use the money as indicated. If you want to guarantee that a set amount of your money will be used towards your pet’s care, you’ll want to set up a pet trust.

A pet trust is more legally binding and allows you to dictate exactly how your pet will be cared for if you die. If your pet’s new caretaker uses the money for any other purpose than to care for your pet, they can be sued. With a pet trust, you can:

  • Name a caregiver for your pet
  • Allocate an amount of money to be used for your pet’s care
  • Describe terms for how the pet should be cared for
  • Name a person who will go to court to enforce these terms if they are violated
  • Dictate what should happen to any leftover funds if your pet dies
  • State how your pet should be cared for if you must relinquish care before you die

A pet trust gives you full authority over what happens to your pet once you die, but they can be costly, overly strict and unnecessary. If you trust your chosen caretaker to follow your terms, a will should be enough to guarantee your pet’s care.


What Happens if You Don’t Have an Estate Plan for Your Pet?

If you don’t plan ahead for what will happen to your pet if you die, your pet’s fate will depend on the other arrangements you’ve made for your death. If you have a will but haven’t made specific terms for your pet, your four-legged friend will go to your residuary beneficiary (the person you’ve chosen to receive your estate). If you don’t have a will, your estate — including your pet — will be distributed according to local laws. This may mean your beloved pet will end up in an animal shelter.

Your pet has been your loyal companion since the day you brought her home. She deserves to feel safe, loved and taken care of, even if you pass away. When preparing for what will happen to your pet if you die, you should always talk to a lawyer who specializes in pet trusts and estate planning for pet parents. At Dog Quality, we believe in being prepared and supporting pups all throughout their lives. Speak with a professional to get everything in order so you can rest easy knowing you’ve done all you can to protect your furry family members.

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