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Naming Your Pet in a Will

If your nearest and dearest family members are fur babies, you want them to be taken care of even after you are gone. Although you can get family members or friends to promise to care for your pets, circumstances can change. The safest way to protect your pets after you die is to name them in your will.


Although you may think of your dog or cat as the child you never had, the law doesn't see things the same way. According to the legal system, your pet is property, meaning you cannot directly leave property to them. No matter how you feel about this legal distinction, you have to honor it by making other arrangements. Otherwise, your pet could end up being euthanized after you die, as thousands of pets are every year. To avoid this tragic end, you have to find a caregiver. 


According to the Humane Society, you need to carefully consider who will take your pet after you die. You should not assume that a relative or friend will step in and do so. In fact, you need to get the agreement in writing, although that may sound harsh. You also need to have alternates in case something happens to the designated caregiver. In a way, the process is the same as you would go through for a child. Of course, you also need to provide financially for your pet so that the caregiver doesn't suffer financially by taking on this responsibility.


You need to consult with your estate-planning attorney to set up a trust for your pet or to designate life-insurance benefits for them. Do realize that leaving a large amount of money to your pet may lead family members to contest the will, so don't try and make your cat or dog wealthy. However, set aside enough money so that your pet can be comfortable for the remainder of its life. You can easily estimate your pet's remaining lifespan and update your will regularly to adjust the amount you allot for their care. 

You may think only rich folks leave money in their wills for pets, but that's simply not true. Taking this step is a logical and practical choice that helps ensure your fur baby is well cared for after you are gone. Do discuss this step with your friends and family before having it added to the will. Then follow the advice of your estate planner.