Caring for Your Pet After You Die

Being loved by an animal feels special and magical. It also creates an obligation for pet owners who are responsible for the food, shelter, comfort and regular medical care of their furry charges. It is no wonder then that so many owners want to make sure their pets are cared for if they pass away before their pets. 

Contrary to many news stories, pets cannot actually inherit property. Pets are property. Here are the most common options for caring for your pet after you die:

Ask a Friend

This easiest, most informal option is to simply ask a friend if they would be willing to care for your pet if something happens to your. This is the most risky option because it relies on your friend’s willingness and ability to step in. Other people responsible for your care or your estate might not know about or approve of this agreement.

Use a Will

You can pass your pet to your friend in you will and even give your friend money or property in order to finance the care of your pet. Remember that a Will only takes effect after you die. For example, if you are injured or unable to communicate, your Will would not take effect. So you will still want to make arrangements in case you are incapacitated.

If you give your pet in a Will, your friend becomes the pet’s legal owner after your die. They decide what happens to your pet and if their circumstances change or if they die, your pet could end up in a shelter despite even the best intentions. If you leave money to your friend based on a promise, the friend might use the money for themselves or the money could be seized by your friend’s creditors.

Pet Trust

California is one of many states that allows trusts to be established for the care of pets and domesticated animals. When you establish a pet trust, you give property and assets to the trust to be used for your pet’s care. You can name a trustee and backup trustees, who each have a legal obligation to use the trust property for your pet. The trust can also describe the type of care you want your pet to enjoy. 

No Plan

If you have no plan, the ownership of your pet will depend on the person handling your estate. Pets are often surrendered to shelters when their owner passes away without making any provision for their care. At minimum, it is our responsibility to plan for our pet’s well-being when we pass away.

You can contact me here to discuss your planning options for caring for your pet.

Remember, this information is provided for general education and entertainment purposes. I have not considered your individual circumstances. You should consult with your own attorney regarding your unique circumstances.

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on