Can your pets be added to your will?

Yes, you can provide for your pets in your will.

It’s a common misnomer that you can leave money directly to your pet. Some people remember stories about billionaire Leona Helmsley leaving $12 million to her dog named “Trouble.” In reality, you may love your pet like a child but under the law, the pet is considered your “property” (like your house, car, and toothbrush). Since property can’t own other property (like a bank account), money has to be left to a person or in trust for the care of your pets.

The majority of states allow you to create a trust for the care of your pets. However, a less expensive and more simple approach is to address the care of your pets in your will.

The will needs to include at least two things regarding your pets:

  1. Caregiver: You need to appoint someone to care for your pet. This can be a burden and everyone may not love your pet as much you do. You should talk with this person and make sure they are on-board to care for your pet. Next, you should also consider naming one or more backup caregivers in the event that the original caregiver is no longer able or willing to take on this responsibility at the time of your death.
  2. Funds: As you probably already know, pets are not cheap. You need to provide some source of funds for the care of your pets. In the context of a will, this is most frequently done by leaving money to the caregiver for the care of your pet. You should also speak with your attorney to see whether you can create a testamentary trust in your will that names a trustee over the funds left for the care of your pet.


You must provide or leave behind instructions for the care of your pet. This information is not in your will or trust. Here are some things you should consider including in those instructions:

  • care instructions that are specific to your pet – like special dietary requirements, favorite toy;
  • the name of your vet;
  • the location of your vet records, including vaccinations;
  • if you have a pet trust or petcare agreement, where those documents are located;
  • if you have pet insurance, where those documents are located; and
  • if the animal is chipped, information about that chip.

BOTTOM LINE: Talk with your attorney about the best way to incorporate the care of your pet into your estate plan.

PS: All of the pet care instructions discussed above, that are not in your will or trust, can be captured by

What are you waiting for?  In less than one hour, you can finish your letter for your family.  Be their hero by getting prepared and providing them with the information and instructions that they will need to in the event anything happens to you.  START TODAY and help your family when you can no longer be there in person.

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This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  If you have questions about your legal rights, responsibilities or options, you should consult with an attorney in your state.