Your beloved pets/animals and Estate Planning

We love our pets. I have 3 cats and 15 chickens and they are very important to our family. What happens to them if I am no longer able to take care of them or gone? There are things you can do now to ensure that your animals are cared for. This information pertains to any animal we care for – dogs, cats, birds, horses, lizards, etc.


Talk to your family and friends. Be sure that you inform whomever you want to care for your pets that they are the designated caretakers. And make sure they are willing. It is important that they know and like your pet. Communicate with family and friends what your wishes are. It really helps to leave some money to cover the cost of your pet’s care. Between $1000 and $3000 is suggested per pet. In this case, there is no need for any special estate planning.


Setting up a Pet Trust is legal in California and a good way to formalize your wishes. Here we are speaking of leaving $10,000 or more for the care of your animals. In a Pet Trust, you would name someone to care for your pets when you are temporarily incapacitated and upon your death. This could be the same person. It is important to leave a financial incentive for the caretaker. You could include instructions about what the funds can be used for: for e.g.: to build a fence, for pet food, for veterinarian bills, for grooming, for the purchase of pet toys, gear and other necessary items to make the animals life better. Finally, include instructions regarding burial or cremations wishes.

            THE PET DOSSIER

The Pet Dossier is more than just a file on your critters. A pet dossier is a document containing information about your pet that will be valuable to a potential guardian and/or caregiver. The dossier should be mentioned in your estate planning documents, specifying the location. The dossier can include your pet’s birthday, diet, veterinarian and information about the breed, if relevant. Vaccination and other medical records can be kept here. Also mention any habits or preferences your pets have. Note behaviors around other animals, children and people in the dossier. If you have pet insurance, note this and say what the insurance covers. Include photos of your pets as well as current notes about their care.

My friend Alysoun left clear instruction about the care of her 2 cats. It was important information we, the trustees, needed to follow her wishes and ensure her cats were cared for in the manner she hoped for. Leave a heart-warming legacy of care for the creatures that gave you so much joy and companionship.