Estate Planning for Pets

According to Arizona law, a pet owner cannot leave money or assets to their pet.  It is still important to plan for the care of your pet when you die.  Friends or family that have agreed to adopt your pet may have circumstances change where they are no longer able to do this. Having a pet can be expensive with the cost of food, shots, daycare or medical care that may arise. In your estate plan, there are a few things you can do to account for your pet’s well-being and avoid the worst case scenario – they end up homeless or in a shelter.

Include a signed typed or written letter with your estate plan as to who is to get your pet immediately and then permanently.  If you have a back-up person that will care for your pet in case the first person is unable or unwilling to adopt your pet include that name as well. If you don’t establish a pet trust, you could leave money to the person(s) who will adopt your pet.  However, there is no guarantee that they will spend it on your pet and may use it for themselves.

A trust  is a vehicle that can hold property and distribute income for the benefit of a beneficiary, and while your pet can’t receive property, they can be listed as the beneficiary of trust income. A pet trust as part of your estate plan can solve the problem of not being able to directly leave money to your pets and ensure that gifted assets are used for your pet. You will be the original trustee and need to name a back-up trustee who is usually the person who will be the caregiver of your pet. The back-up trustee can act upon your disability, incapacity, or death. The trustee can quickly access trust funds needed for your pet’s care. The trust follows the pet so if someone else cares for your pet they will have the funds to provide for their needs.

 If you don’t trust anyone there are organizations that will act as the trustee and find a home for your pet. The organization will follow your wishes. You’ll need to form the terms of the trust to dictate how income from the trust should be used to care for your pet. Money left over in the trust can be left to any individual(s) or organization you designate.


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