According to a recent article on, there are some surprising new figures about American households and their pets. “In 2011, Americans spent a record $50.8 billion on pets, according to the American Pet Products Association. We share our homes with an estimated 86 million cats, 78 million dogs, 16 million birds and 160 million fish.”

These numbers perhaps aren’t so shocking when you consider how the role of animals in our lives has changed over the past few decades. Animals have gone from being mere pets or farm animals to being companions, guides, status symbols, and in most cases beloved members of the family. As such, most pet owners want to provide for them as they would a human member of the family.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the article, “While we may consider our pets family members, our legal system considers them property.” And because in most states estate law prohibits us from leaving property (money, real estate, etc.) to property, we in Arizona are lucky.  We can draw up our wills and trusts to care for our pets when we are unable to care for them ourselves.  Our laws permit us to provide for our pets through human intermediaries. The best way to do this is through a pet trust, in which you can nominate a loving caregiver for your pet, as well as set aside some money to be distributed to the caregiver—either in one lump sum or in smaller distributions throughout the life of your pet.

A pet trust may be the most reliable way to ensure your pet will be provided for, but it certainly isn’t the only way. Another option is to simply name a caregiver for your pet in your will or trust and then include the caregiver as a recipient of funds in your will. For example: “If my cat Fluffy is alive at my death, I leave $3,000 for her care to Mary Johnson.” If you have more than one person who might serve as caregiver you should consider also naming back-up caregivers in the event that your first choice is unwilling or unable.

Pets provide so much unconditional love and support during our lives, the last thing we want is to leave them without a friend to care for them after our deaths. Contact Ilene when the time comes for your next annual review, to be sure you’ve included a provision for your pet.

Ilene L. McCauley and Frederick H. Goldinov are licensed to practice law in the State of Arizona. The law firm of Goldinov & McCauley, PLC provides legal services for clients in the State of Arizona. The information provided on this website and our blog is general and educational in nature and should not be construed as legal or tax advice, nor does the use of the website create an attorney/client relationship. Laws of specific states or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy or completeness of this information which cannot take the place of one-on-one personal legal consultation and advice. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. No legal representation is created, and we make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use. Neither the authors nor anyone forwarding or reproducing this work shall have any liability or responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained in this website or blog.