When most people think about estate planning they think about friends and relatives, they think about minor children or grandchildren, they think about family heirlooms or large assets to pass on to the next generation. There is one family member who often gets overlooked when estate plans are being made: Your pets. Have you made provisions for your four-legged loved ones in case of your death?

If you have not made provisions for your pets then their fate rests in the hands of your executor. A friend or family member may step up and take your pet into their home, but more often than not when an owner dies their beloved pet is likely to end up in an animal shelter. You can prevent this fate with the simple act of including your pet in your will or estate plan.

Most people when they think of pet trusts they think of the elaborate plans made by Leona Helmsley for her dog Trouble; but there are simpler options. What many pet owners choose to do is include a brief and simple statement in their existing will or trust naming a caretaker for their pet, and apportion a small amount of money to be left to the caretaker to be used for the comfort and care of the pet.

Of course, large animals, exotic pets, or more expensive “show animals” may require a more thought and planning than the family dog, cat or bird, and you’ll want to consult with your estate planning attorney if you have concerns about these larger or more expensive pets. For the most part, however, making plans for your pets is relatively easy:

* Have a conversation with one or two animal-loving friends asking them if they would be willing to be caretaker for your pet if something were to happen to you.

* Consider what you feel is a reasonable amount to leave the person who will be taking on the role of caretaker for your pet.

* Contact your estate planning attorney and ask to include a paragraph or two in your will or trust for the purpose of providing for your pet after your death.

Our pets give us their love and trust freely, with absolutely no strings attached. Isn’t it the least we can do to ensure that they won’t be left out in the cold when we’re gone?


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.