Usually, we outlive our pets. Sometimes, our pets outlive us. When it comes to end-of-life planning, there are numerous details to gather and thoughtfully consider. Listing assets, naming inheritors or beneficiaries, creating advance directives and more are just some of the items you will find on various end-of-life planning checklists. Around 70% of Americans report having at least one pet and yet many end-of-life checklists you may find online forget to mention pets. Have you thought about how your pets will receive care after you’re gone?

After the death of Queen Elizabeth, there was much concern about who would take care of her beloved Corgi dogs. It was interesting to follow because it was surprising that there was so much speculation about who would care for them.

Who will care for my pets when I die?

All pet owners can benefit from thinking about who would take their furry friends in if they died or became unable to care for them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as putting a written note in with your important estate documents. Ideally, you then have a conversation with that person to confirm their willingness to adopt your pet(s).

Sometimes, people wish to leave a financial bequest of money to their appointed pet caregiver to cover the expenses of pet ownership. Taking this step is a little more complicated because bequests should be documented in a Last Will and Testament, which may need the services of an estate planning attorney. 

How much money will your pet need?

How much money to set aside should be based on the age and health of your pet, as well as their lifestyle. It’s important to provide for regular preventive veterinary care visits (at least once a year), with year-round parasite control. Special medical, prescription pet food or medication needs suggest a larger sum of money for each pet with these needs. Usually, keeping up to $5,000 per year to manage any unexpected veterinary care should be sufficient. 

Pet trusts and wills

There is rarely a need for a special Pet Will – adding a paragraph to your regular will and a letter with instructions is sufficient to ensure your wishes are carried out. Pet Trusts combine the selection of a caregiver with the designation of funds that can only be used as defined in the trust document. They can be complex to administer and may carry additional legal costs.

Protect your companions

Whichever method you choose, it’s a good idea to plan ahead about your beloved pets and have a conversation with a trusted friend or family member about caring for your pets after your death. Documenting it in writing ensures your family knows what you have decided and makes it easier for them to get your pet settled into their new home with as little disruption as possible.