Estate Planning for Pets: How to Protect Your Furry Friends – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Planning for your four-legged loved ones (better known as your children who wear fur coats) can be just as challenging as planning for your two-legged loved ones. As a specialist in wills, trusts and estates, and an animal lover myself, I’ve helped many people craft plans to protect their pets over the years.

For instance, I helped a man with five cats ensure they were able to stay together and live out their lives in a senior cat sanctuary. I also had the pleasure of helping a lady create a pet trust so her cats, dogs and horses can stay in their own home after she dies. A qualified caregiver will move into her home and live on her farm with her pets, so they never have to find a new place to live. 

Each case is as different as the animals in our lives, but when planning ahead for your pets, everyone needs to start by considering the following questions:

  • Do any of your pets have unique care requirements (i.e., health concerns, unusual behaviors, etc.) that require special planning?
  • Where do you want your pets to live — at your home, with a friend or loved one, or at a sanctuary?
  • What financial resources will you provide to ensure your pets are adequately provided for? 
  • Who will be responsible for providing daily care? 
  • Who will be responsible for the oversight and administration of the assets left for the benefit of your pets? 

No two pet owners will have the same planning goals for their pets. You may say, “I want my pets to stay in my home, in familiar surroundings, with a pet caregiver who will move in and live on the premises.”  Or you may be comfortable with a new forever family or a sanctuary environment for your pets (particularly horses or other hard-to-place pets). These are just a few of the options that must be considered when creating a plan to ensure your pets will be properly cared for when you are unable to do so yourself, either through natural disaster, disability or death.

First, Decide Who Will Care for Your Pet

The first step in planning for your pets goes beyond the legal design of a pet estate plan. The first step is to identify those persons or organizations (pet caregivers) that will have physical custody of your pets and will provide them with daily care through their lifetime. Much like planning for minor …….


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