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Providing for your pet in a will

PAWS has helped find new homes for cats whose owners have passed, and not all of them made sure their pets would be provided for before their death. Providing for your pets in your will is an important consideration for pet owners who want to ensure that their furry friends are taken care of after their passing -- it is one less thing for those left behind to handle, on top of sorting through belongings and financial records.

We have heard of cases of pet hoarding, and pets living in unclean environments. And sometimes pets are left to their own devices -- locked out by a real estate agent trying to sell the property. And when the shelters are full, abandoned cats can end up as strays, or even get euthanized.

Very few people (estimated around 9 percent, according to the website ) include their pets in their wills. If you do intend to bestow your pet on an heir, it is a good idea to talk it over first. Sometimes a verbal agreement is all that's necessary, and that can ease your mind. To provide for pets in a will, pet owners must first decide who will care for their pets after their passing. This may be a family member, friend, or a trusted pet organization. The next step is to specify the care arrangements for the pets in the will, including the provision of food, shelter, and medical care. The pet owner should also consider providing financial resources to cover the cost of caring for the pet.

Simply mentioning the pet in a will, however, is not necessarily always the best option: probate can take a long time, and an orphan pet doesn't usually have time to wait. If you can, creating a legal trust for your pets is a better path: trusts take effect immediately. A pet trust is a legal arrangement that provides for the care of pets after the death of the owner. The trust can provide for the pet’s care and expenses, and ensure that the pet will be taken care of even if the individual named in the will is unable to do so. Once you have decided to include your pet or pets in a trust you need to find a trusted caregiver who is willing to take them or find a sanctuary where they will be cared for. Whatever the scenario is it must be stated in the trust agreement.

There are a lot of websites that offer boilerplate trust agreements, like

Not surprisingly, the ASPCA has a good primer on how to put together a trust, too:

If the selected route is a sanctuary, this can require a serious hunt because sanctuaries for pets don’t grow on trees. The sanctuary needs to be clearly stated in the trust and funds be provided for the care of the pet. To find a good sanctuary, you can look online at which has a program of pet placement with families and sanctuaries. There are several groups and organizations nationwide that offer "Perpetual Care programs" for pets, although be aware that some of them are quite expensive. For many folks, arranging a trust with a family member, or making a gift to a local pet organization or rescue is probably a likelier path.

Including pets in a will also has several benefits for pet owners. Firstly, it allows pet owners to ensure that their pets are taken care of by individuals who will provide them with love and care. Secondly, it provides peace of mind for pet owners, who can rest assured that their pets will not be left without proper care in the event of their death.

Maybe this seems like a lot of work, but it is no different, really, than the other considerations you might make when putting together a will. By including pets in a will, pet owners can ensure that their pets will be taken care of by individuals who will provide them with the love and care they deserve. Additionally, providing for pets in a will provides peace of mind for pet owners, who can rest assured that their pets will not be left without proper care in the event of their death.


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