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Can you leave everything to your pet when you die?

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2021 | Estate Planning

However much personality your dog or cat may have, it is an item of property in the eyes of the law, not a person. Therefore, even if you could be around to see your people’s faces when they open your will and discover that you are leaving everything to your pet, you can’t. 

A will only allows you to leave assets to people, not animals. Does that mean there is no way to ensure your four-legged friend will be well looked after when you are gone? Not quite.

There are two main ways to provide for your pet in an estate plan

Firstly, you can find someone you trust to take care of the animal. You can write in your will that they get the dog or cat, plus a sum of money to keep your pet in the manner to which it is accustomed. You can even include instructions — such as “Fido must get fresh tuna steak on Saturdays and a steamed chicken breast with the skin removed on Sundays.” However, since there is no way you can enforce that from the grave, you need to choose your pet’s custodian carefully.

Secondly, you could set up a pet trust. A trust gives you more control over what happens to your pet. The person you name as guardian needs to abide by the instructions you leave. The trustee is in charge of ensuring they do and providing the money for your pet’s needs as per your requirements in the trust. (However, if the rules are too demanding, the guardian may decide to quit, so converse with them before making your final plans.)

Who will get the money you leave a pet when it dies?

Not only can pets not own property, but they cannot create wills or trusts, either. So it is up to you to set out what happens to any money remaining after your pet dies by naming a remainder beneficiary. 

Creating an estate plan that is fair to the people in your life, not just the animals, makes it more likely they will live in harmony and less likely that disgruntled relatives will file a contest or offer your pup poisoned treats.