How to Make Sure Toto Is Cared for: How to Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plan

Dogs truly are man’s best friend- pets are an important part of people’s lives, and yet they are often left out of long-term plans. However, if you were to become disabled or pass on, you would want your pet to be well taken care of, and there are a number of simple steps that you can take to make sure that happens.

Most people simply choose to include a provision in their will about their pet. While this is a  simple approach, it doesn’t create a foolproof plan. Even if you allocate money for your pet’s care and nominate a relative or friend as a caretaker, there is no legal enforcement to ensure they spend that money on the care of the pet, instead of a trip to Paris. Obviously, if you have someone you trust, then this is less of a problem. However, using a will does not legally guarantee anything except the transfer of the pet as property to whoever is named. In addition, when a will goes through probate, no money is going to be allocated for the care of your pet, so you need to make sure someone is willing to step in early on, without compensation.

Because of this problem, Pennsylvania is one of the many states across the nation that allows for a “pet trust,” to designate money to be spent on a pet. Of course, since pets are legally designated as property, the pet cannot be a beneficiary of a traditional legal trust since a pet cannot enforce the terms of the trust. Because of this, a statutory pet trust will allow you to designate a third party who can enforce the terms of the trust, who will be separate from the caretaker. Once you have set up a trust, it is important to let your intended caretaker and trustee know all the details of your plan, so they are able to step in quickly. A pet trust is a great way to ensure your desires about the care of your pet are respected, and that money is saved for your beloved animal.

If you don’t have a friend or relative who is willing to take on the care of your pet, there are pet sanctuaries and retirement organizations that can take responsibility. You can include a provision in your will to pay for the pet’s stay in a lump sum, or you could include the provision in a trust. You should obviously draw up an agreement with the organization as well. This is another great way to make sure your pet is well taken care of.

If you live in Philadelphia, Montgomery, or Delaware County and want to discuss how to provide for your pet in your estate plan, please contact us