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Including your pet in your estate planning

Pets have become an essential part of most families in the United States. Most households own at least one pet, and it is not uncommon for people planning their estate to think about what will happen to their pet after they pass or when they can no longer care for it.

Legally speaking, pets are considered property. However, in the hearts of American families, they are just another family member. In 2023, 66% of U.S. households owned at least one pet. That is a lot of homes—ninety million of them.

What can I do to protect my pet when I can no longer care for it?

There are several options for people who want to protect their pets and include them in their estate planning. Some people create a pet trust, others include them in their will, and both have pros and cons.

What happens if I do not mention my pet in my estate documents?

If pet owners do not actively include their pets in their estate documents or create a trust for them, the law does not protect them.

If you decide to include your pet in the estate planning documents:

  • Ensure that you have a trusted individual who can and wants to care for your pet.
  • Allocate enough money to cover all your pet’s needs based on how much you spend on them.
  • Put it all in writing as part of your estate planning documents, and be clear and specific.
  • Decide if you will compensate that individual for what they will be doing.
  • Research pet trusts if you set up a trust for your pet.

Pets have become such an essential part of our society that we do not consider them property. However, because the law does, it is critical to ensure that you do everything you can to protect your pet if they outlive you or if you are in a situation where you can no longer care for them.