What happens to your pet if you die, and how can you make sure they receive the best care possible? If you die without making plans for your pet, your property (pets included) are subject to your state’s “intestacy” laws.
Who Will Care for Your Pet When You Die?
If you pass away before making legal arrangements for your pet, the authority will likely be granted to anyone living with you or to your next-of-kin. In other words, your spouse, non-minor child, brother, sister, etc. assumes responsibility. This includes rehoming the animal, if not caring for it themselves. Most individuals are fine with this arrangement; however, make sure you evaluate the situation carefully to ensure the person receiving your pet is equipped to care for it.
Likewise, if you live alone with a spouse, ask yourself what would happen to your pet if you both passed away. These are difficult thoughts that no one likes to consider, but to ensure the best future for your pet, you must think through every scenario.
In situations where the next-of-kin is not easily reached, your will steps in. Much like appointing a guardian for a child, you can choose a caretaker for your pet. When the will goes through court, there is no question as to who is responsible for your pets when you die.
What Happens if No One is Specified?
If you fail to specify a caretaker in your will, and no family members or friends step up to the plate, your pet will be re-homed according to the court ruling. Often, a pet may go to a shelter, where it is placed for adoption to a new family. While in many cases this works well, it doesn’t always turn out for the best.
How to Ensure Your Pet Receives the Best Care Possible
Particularly if you live alone or don’t live with anyone able to care for your pet, you need to take a few precautions. Ensure that your pet receives quality care in your absence by taking the following 3 steps.
1. Make specifications for your pet in your will
Even if you live with family, make your desires for your pet very clear within the boundaries of your will. State whom you would like to care for your pet, and list more than one person. For example, you could say, “I want Person #1 to care for my pet if I become able to do so. If Person #1 is unable to do so, I want Person #3 to do so.” Leave no room for question as to where your pet should go.
If you don’t have friends or family members you trust to care for your pet, perhaps you can specify an organization or shelter instead.
2. Discuss your plans for your pet with your loved ones
It is not enough to simply name a caretaker in your will and call it a day. Make sure you discuss your desires with the potential caretaker. Make sure they’re okay with assuming responsibility for your pet. If not, see if they are willing to find a good home for your pet in your absence.
3. Create a trust or bequest for your pet
Finally, creating a trust (or budget) or specific bequest for your pet can help ease some of the financial burdens on its new caretaker. Talk to your lawyer about designating part of your inheritance toward food, veterinarian expenses, and other materials for your pet. This helps ensure that your pet maintains the quality of life you desire for it.