Can I Leave My Estate To My Pet?

November 6, 2014
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Every year, there are a few individuals who want to leave part or all of their estate to their pet. Unfortunately, pets are considered property, and property cannot own other property. This leaves an interesting conundrum for dedicated pet owners, but there are a couple of ways around it. So, now the question remains – Can I Leave My Estate To My Pet? Leaving your pet to a trusted caretaker The simplest and often most effective way to make sure that your pet will have a good life after you pass away is to leave the pet and the money for his or her care to a trusted caretaker. It is important that this be a person who you trust, however, because there is no legal obligation for him or her to use the money for the care of the pet. The clause in your will would likely look something like this, courtesy of NOLO: I leave my pet [name] and $[amount], to [trusted caretaker], with the hope that the money will be used for [pet’s name]’s care and maintenance. Notice how it reads “in the hope.” There is no legal recourse should that caretaker use the money on him- or herself. Creating a trust A more expensive and complicated, but ultimately more effective option is to create a trust that is designed to benefit your pet. In this trust, you will leave your pet and the money to the same caretaker, but this time the money comes with a legal obligation to care for the pet. In this document, you can not only name the person who will care for the pet and the amount of money to be used for this care, you can also describe how you would like the pet to be cared for both after you die and before you die should you become incapacitated. You will also have to name an enforcer of the trust. This option is less flexible and more expensive, but it will ensure that your pet is cared for.