Estate Planning for Pets

Pets are quite often seen as part of the family and much like their own children, pet owners worry about their pet's care after the owner's death.  Under Minnesota law, pets are considered property.  They cannot directly inherit property, own property, or be the beneficiaries of a trust.  So, what happens to your pets when you pass away?  There are several ways you can help make sure that your pet is cared for and has resources available for that care.

One method is to leave your pet to a specific relative or friend through a clause in your Will or on your Tangible Personal Property List.  Speak with the person prior to drafting your estate planning documents to make sure they will agree to take care of your pet.  You can provide in your Will that the person receiving your pet will also receive a specific financial gift to be used towards your pet's care.

As the probate of a Will can often take several months, you should also direct that someone (perhaps your personal representative) provide care for your pet immediately after your death until the pet is delivered to it's ultimate caregiver.  Direct that the person can be reimbursed for any expenses for the intermediate care of the pet.  

If you do not have any reliable friends or family members to take your pet, another option is to direct that your pet be given to a specific animal shelter or other similar institution.  There are several such institutions in Minnesota, such as Animal Ark, that will provide care for your pet after your death if you leave the organization a donation in you Will.  

If you have questions about how to provide care for your pets at your death, speak to an estate planning attorney about incorporating appropriate clauses into your estate planning documents.