What Happens to Fido When I Die?

Those of us who have pets know the joy of their unconditional love and how they enrich our lives. Many of us treat our pets as part of the family.  But in the eyes of the law, pets are considered mere “chattel,” that is, they are no different than a table lamp—they are personal property.

If we don’t provide for them in our trust or will, our pets will pass to the beneficiaries. This might be fine if there is at least one of our beneficiaries who will love and care for them as much as we do. But this leaves unresolved several issues:

  • We leave it up to the beneficiaries to decide who is best to care for our pets
  • We did not provide instructions for the care of our pets
  • No funds are allocated for the feeding, grooming, and veterinary costs for our pets

What can you do? You may want to establish a hierarchy of recipients for your pets. The first level would be a list of people you trust to receive your pets in the order listed.

The second level would be that the trustee or executor is authorized to distribute your pets to any “responsible person.”

If the above two levels fail, the third level would be to place the pets with an animal shelter with a “no kill” policy. The shelter will either find a home for your pets or will keep them for the remainder of their lives.

In addition, you have the option of giving a cash gift to accompany each pet. The gift may be a relatively modest “thank you” gift, or it may be as much as the total meals, grooming, and veterinary expenses for the anticipated lifetime of the pet.

Finally, you might want to consider a “pet trust” for your pets. Here, you set aside a sum of money to be administered by a trustee to a named guardian for the pets. With a trust, you can be as specific as you’d like concerning the care and feeding of your pets. Pet trusts are especially appropriate for horses or high-value household pets.

In summary, we love our pets and want the best for them, even after we are gone. They deserve our careful consideration while planning our estate.

For more information, contact Roy Johnston at