Client Alert

Continuing Care for Your Pet After You Pass Away

When determining your estate plan, it is important to remember all members of your family. While you might have already set up distribution methods for your beneficiaries, it is important to leave a portion of your assets aside for the continuing care of an important family member: your pet.

Pets have been considered in high-asset estate plans for many years. Billionaire and hotel heiress, Leona Helmsley, made pet trusts famous in 2007 when she left 12 million dollars to her Maltese dog in a trust upon her death. Other popular celebrities who have left and plan to leave large inheritances to their pet include Betty White, Alexander McQueen, Michael Jackson, and Oprah Winfrey.

When setting up your estate plan, it is important to determine the difference between naming your pet in your will and creating a separate pet trust.


Naming your pet in your will can be beneficial if your primary intention is to determine who your pet will go to when you pass away. However, if you are hoping to leave a large sum of money to your pet, you might want to consider a pet trust.

Generally, wills only allow you allocate assets and property. Unlike a trust, wills do not have a trustee to monitor your assets after a court distributes them. While your pet’s new caretaker could technically do this, a will does not require supervision that the caretaker spends the assets he or she receives on your pet.

Pet Trusts

Pet trusts can provide you a peace of mind that the assets in the trust are being spent on your pet. Similar to other high-asset trusts, you will choose a trustee to manage your pet’s assets. This trustee will dispense funds to pet’s new caretaker and supervise that he or she is using them on your pet.

The new caretaker must follow the instructions you provide in the trust. These instructions can include daily routines, standards of care, types of food and anything else you would like to add. Pet trusts can help pay for boarding, veterinary care and grooming costs, as well as lavish expenses.

It is extremely important to consider your pets when creating your estate plan. If your pet is of high value you, allow a pet trust to provide you certainty that your pet’s care will continue after you pass away.

Posted in Client Alert, Estate Planning.