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When creating an estate plan, most people think about caring for their families after they die. But what about your pets? How do you know that your pet will continue to be cared for?

There are plenty of crazy stories about the rich setting aside millions for their pets, but you don’t have to be a millionaire to make sure your pet is cared for after your death. Follow these 4 steps to create a plan to protect your pet!

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary. Only undertake estate planning with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state.

1. Choose a Caretaker

Woman with a gray fuzzy sweater holding a small green bird and smiling

Who do you want to care for your pet when you’re gone? Picking a caretaker is an important first step.

Do you have a responsible friend or family member who gets along well with your pet? While you look for a possible caretaker, talk to the people you trust to see if they would be interested. Some people may have other pets, small children, or demanding jobs that could make them unwilling or unable to take on the extra responsibility.

If you don’t know anyone who can care for your pet, there are other options. Pet legacy programs around the world work to connect pets with loving families after they lose their owners. You could also leave your pet with a local no-kill animal sanctuary or rescue organization that will find it a new home.

2. Add Your Pet to Your Estate Plan

Small fluffy brown dog running in green grass

Once you’ve chosen a caretaker, you have several options for ensuring your pet goes to them. The most common ways to leave your pet to your chosen caretaker are with a non-legal arrangement, a clause in your will, a trust, or a pet power of attorney. Before deciding, consider whether there may be a conflict about your pet’s care among your family or any extra provisions you want to make, like setting aside money for your pet’s care (see point #4).

As you consider the best option for you and your pet, talk to your estate planning attorney. They can provide you with extra information regarding your state’s specific regulations and help you set up a plan that fits your needs.

3. Share Your Pet’s History

Vet holding a black and white bunny

Even if your caretaker is someone you know, they’ll need extra information about your pet’s history. To help with that, you can create a document with the necessary information. Consider adding details about your pet’s:

  • Vaccination history
  • Current and past medications
  • Medical issues (past and present)
  • Adoption papers
  • Any American Kennel Club or other breed registration information
  • Special dietary needs

Make sure to keep the document up-to-date when things change with your pet.

4. Set Aside Funds

Older woman petting a peaceful cat on her lap

Because pets are legally considered property, you can’t leave them money in your will. However, you can set aside funds to help pay for their food, care, and medical expenses as they transition to their new caretaker. One of the most common ways to do this is by setting up a pet trust.

If you choose to set aside funds for your pet’s care, consider the typical cost of their food, medical expenses, etc. By providing these funds for your chosen caregiver, you can lighten the burden of caring for your pet and ensure that your pet is cared for in the way you want.

While thinking about what will happen to your pet after you’re gone can be sad, remember that planning ahead can make the transition easier for them. Once you make decisions about your pet’s future, trust yourself and your choices. You know your pet best, and once you have an estate plan for your pet in place, you can rest easy knowing that they’ll be well cared for.

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