Pets Are Your Beloved Property — Protect Them In Your Will

It’s not often we think morbid thoughts or focus on financial affairs or legalese when discussing pet care. But there should be an end-of-life exception — and we’re not talking about your dog’s life. When it comes to protecting your furry friend after you’re deceased, the best way is to put them in your will.

At first blush, this probably sounds strange. Legal documents like a will are typically focused on which heirs will receive which assets from an estate, usually in the form of property. But did you know dogs and all pets are considered tangible personal property under the law — no different than your vehicle or grandma’s set of china.

Too often, failure to include pets in an estate plan can lead to disastrous results such as relegation to the shelter. If family members are unable or unwilling to step in, friends are powerless to prevent such a move.

The easiest way to prevent this is to designate a sibling, niece, nephew or other family member to take your beloved pet in the event of your death. Again, that’s not always possible, but there are other alternatives. Charitable organizations exist that can place your dog in a good home, especially if the will or estate plan sets aside adequate funds to take care of your four-legged family member.

Mechanisms within estate plans exist to set up a separate pet trust. In most cases it stipulates that the money would only be dispensed once the designee takes responsibility for care of your pet.

After all the joy your pet has given you, this extra level of protection just makes sense.