Estate Planning for Pets

Planning for Our Beloved Pets When We Die

How do we make sure our beloved animals are taken care? In reviewing clients’ wills, I’ve seen many that are so well thought out that they include their current pets and any pets they might have in the future. Several famous cases, including Leona Helmsley, Michael Jackson, Doris Duke, and Alexander McQueen, provided fabulously for their pets. Karl Lagerfeld left $300 million to his cat.

Pets are actually considered property like furniture, jewelry, and cars – so if you don’t include your pet in your estate planning, they may not end up where you want them. Here’s what to do:

Identify your heir for your pet. Figure out who would be best to care for your pet, and ask them if they would be willing to do so. It’s important to name someone who really would want to take care of them. Describe your pet and what they need.

Add that person to your will. It can be a codicil to your existing documents that names the person, or you can include it as a statement in your will when you update your estate documents.

Create a trust for your pet. You probably want to make sure there is enough money set aside to pay for your pet’s expenses like food, toys, veterinary fees, and medicines. You can name not only the new caregiver but the person who will manage the funds for your pet’s care. It’s also important to name a contingent caregiver and contingent trustee, in case they are unable to accept the inheritance and role of owner of your pet.

Add your desires for their medical and end-of-life care. You may have specific ideas of what your pet needs at that time.

Set reasonable expectations. In the famous Leona Helmsley will, she left $12 million when she died in 2007 to her dog named Trouble. This was more than she left to two of her grandchildren, who had been intentionally left out of the will. A judge later determined that Trouble could get by on less, and gave $6 million to the grandchildren, $2 million to Trouble, and the rest to charity.

Blue Spark Capital Advisors

We're a fee-only Registered Investment Advisory and financial planning firm based in New York City and the Berkshires.

We specialize in working with women after divorce, death of a spouse, or other life transitions such as retirement or job change. We provide financial planning and investment management services.

We believe in a holistic approach. Movement in each piece of your financial plan impacts the others, so we consider your entire picture.


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– Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)