Like many people, your pet is a part of the family. Indeed, depending on the structure of your life, your pet frankly may be your family. Recognizing this understandable reality, you may wonder what will happen to your furry family member when you die. There are some options available to you, including legal ones, that work to ensure your companion animal will be taken care of properly after you pass on.

Informal Arrangement Regarding Your Pet

The simplest step that you can take to address the needs of your pet after you die is to make an informal arrangement with someone else. Simply, you request a trusted family member or friend to take your pet when you die.

With this approach, there is no mechanism in place to ensure that the person you ask to assume responsibility for your pet actually does so. Moreover, by taking this informal course, the costs of caring for your companion animal rests squarely on the shoulders of the person you request to take on this responsibility.

Noting these potential shortcomings, this informal course remains the most common way people deal with their companion animals after a human dies. Overall, this approach has worked well more often than not. With that said, if you are like a considerable number of people, you want a stronger assurance that your furry family member will receive solid care into the future after you die.

Include a Provision in Your Last Will and Testament for Your Pet

The most basic formal step you can take to legally provide for your companion animal after you die is to make a provision for your furry family in you last will and testament. Laws have been evolving somewhat in different U.S. states regarding the status of pets. There is a growing recognition that companion animals occupy a position that is different from property. With that said, from a legal standpoint your pet cannot directly inherit money from you to be used for his or her care into the future.

Understanding this limitation, there are steps you can take when drafting your will that can provide for your furry family member after you die. First and foremost, you can designate a person you trust to take possession of your companion animal and care for your pet after you pass on.

Through your will, you can also provide a set amount of money to the individual you designate to take care of your furry family member. Using a will allows you to convey money with this designation, but there is no enforcement mechanism. In other words, there is not way of ensuring that the money is used to care for your companion animal. Indeed, there is no way to ensure that the person you designate will take or keep your pet despite the designation in your last will and testament.

Thinking broadly, you should also designate a successor to care for your pet. A successor is an individual you designate to take care of your companion animal if the initial person appointed for his task is unable to do so.

Establish a Trust for the Future Care of Your Pet

The most structured legal approach you can take to provide for your pet after you die is to establish a trust for your companion animal. Indeed, you can create a trust in such a way that your pet is cared for not only when you die but if the day comes that you physically or mentally are unable to personally care for your furry family member.

Through a trust instrument, you’re able to designate a person who will care for your companion animal after you die. In addition, a specific amount of money can be dispersed to the person designated to care for your pet on a scheduled basis to provide for your furry family member. If your finances permit, you can have money dispersed as well for the person taking care of your pet for his or her own use.

By setting up a trust, you not only have a person designated to take care of your pet, but there is a trustee as well. The trustee has oversight to ensure that the person designated to care for the pet does so in an appropriate manner. As is the case with including provisions for your pet in your will, you will want to include a successor in a trust instrument as well.

You truly best protect your interests – and those of your companion animal – by being as proactive as possible. Thus, even though you may not think you’ve pressing reason to undertake estate planning, if you have a furry family member, you actually do. You truly do want to ensure your pet has the best life possible if your predeceased your furry family member.