Dear Daisy Dog
I am getting ready to write my will, and I want to provide for my pets. I know that whenever I die, some of my dogs and cats will outlive me and require care for the remainder of their lives. Can I include them in my will?
You are wise to think about your pets’ care after your death. Approximately 500,000 pets are euthanized every year because their humans die without making provisions for their guardianship.
Talk with your attorney about a pet trust, which can provide for your animals if you become incapacitated and after you die. Pet trusts have been established by an estimated 20 to 25 percent of people who live with companion animals in the U.S.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet trusts are recognized in all states except Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
If you live in one of the other 42 states, start by asking one or more people to care for your pets. Ensure that you have the agreement of at least one alternate caregiver for each pet, a trustee and an alternate trustee.
Give your attorney their names as well as details of the standards of care you wish for your pets and instructions about the disposition of their bodies after they die.
Fund the trust with sufficient resources to cover each pet’s needs, including food, routine and unexpected veterinary care, grooming and related expenses. Think about whether you’d like to compensate the caregiver(s) for housing and tending your pets.
Finally, as your trust will likely contain residual funds when your last pet dies, specify an animal welfare organization or other pet charity to receive the remaining money.