As you plan for your estate, consider providing for your pets.

Our dogs, cats, and other pets are so close to our hearts, and it’s difficult to think about the day when they’ll no longer be with us. But what if something happens to us first, and we’re not around to take care of them? 

In the event that you pass away first, your animals will need immediate care and love. We’ve compiled some helpful tips for estate planning with your pets’ future in mind.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

Arranging care for your pets

Choose emergency and permanent caregivers.

Whether you’re planning for emergency care or long-term care, be sure to talk about your wishes and the needs of your pets with your potential caregivers. If you have multiple pets, decide whether they should stay together or be placed with different caregivers. 

Keep in touch with your caregivers, so you can make other arrangements if their circumstances change and they are no longer available to serve in that capacity.

Setting up emergency care

Ask a few trusted friends or family members to act as emergency caregivers. You’ll want to arrange for more than one caregiver just in case someone isn’t available.

Give them feeding and care instructions for your pets, contact information for your veterinarian, and a key to your house. 

Let the rest of your family, friends, and loved ones know how many pets you have and that contact information for your emergency caregivers is available. Keep this contact information in your wallet and somewhere in your home where it’s easy to find.

Two people sitting with two dogs in a living room

Setting up long-term care

To ensure long-term care for your furred or feathered friends, you’ll need to name a permanent caregiver.

Be sure to choose someone you know will be able to provide your pets with a good home — someone who can give your pets the kind of attention and care they’re used to. 

If you don’t have someone in mind as a permanent caregiver, give detailed instructions to your emergency caregivers regarding how to find a new home for your pets. If you adopted a pet from an organization, be sure to check your adoption agreement for clauses requiring your pet to be returned to their care. 

When designating a permanent caregiver, include a backup option. And unless otherwise stipulated in your adoption agreement, avoid naming an organization as your permanent caregiver. 

(While some animal welfare organizations may have temporary space available, they generally can’t offer the kind of long-term care and comfortable home your animals will need.)

Provisions for pets in a will or trust

Help ensure that everything goes smoothly for your animals by incorporating their emergency and long-term care in your will or trust.

Making formal arrangements will bring you peace of mind and reassurance that your pets will be properly looked after. 

Remember, it’s important to set up emergency care as well as permanent care for your pets; long-term arrangements can take some time to implement, and your pets will need immediate attention in the event that something happens to you. 

Authorize the use of funds from your estate for your pets. This money can be used for their care and any other costs that may arise, such as the cost of transportation to their new home. Consider setting up a trustee, which can add an additional layer of oversight and care for your animals. 

If you have any questions, consult a legal expert who can assist you with deciding what to include in your will, as well as what kind of estate planning with your pets will be most effective. And don’t forget to leave copies of your will or trust with your executor and chosen caregivers.