Careful When Naming Pets in Your Will

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 17, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Thousands of Americans own pets. And, many want to ensure their pets live long and healthy lives even after their owner passes away. As a result, pet owners might feel compelled to put their pets in their will. Or, owners may feel the need to create pet trusts. But, while your cat or dog may seem like family, in the eyes of the law they are actually your personal property.

As a result, pets are legally incapable of owning their own property. Property can't own property, so giving your pet puppy an inheritance in your will won't work. What can owners do?

Concerned owners can instead create pet trusts, available in certain states. These laws were enacted specifically with the concerned pet-owner in mind.

The trust will set aside some of the owner's assets to take care of the pet, according to the Animal Legal & Historical Center. In the trust, the owner can even put in specific provisions as to the housing of the pet and how the pet should receive veterinary care.

Pet trust laws exist in around 45 states. The specific provisions of the law will vary depending on the state.

One aspect of pet trust laws that is unanimous across the nation is that pet owners might want to ensure that their pet trust is drawn up accurately. Otherwise, a court could cut down the pet trust's inheritance or throw it out entirely.

The late billionaire Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her Maltese, but a court later trimmed the bequest down to $2 million, according to Reuters. A $2 million sum is probably still more than enough to take care of a dog, but ultimately it did not reflect Helmsley's wishes.

Though leaving money for your pets in your will may not be feasible, at the very least creating a pet trust can ease a pet owner's worry. When contemplating what to prepare for when you pass on, maybe one should take time to figure out your state's pet trust laws. After all, aren't Fluffy and Fido family members too?

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard