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Caring for a Pet if You Can’t

What will happen to your beloved pet if you are hospitalized and after you die?  Without a plan in place for their care, pets risk ending up in a shelter, and especially for older pets, possibly being euthanized.  Here are some steps you can take to help make sure your pets receive the loving care you want for them.  They range from an informal agreement with family or friends to a more formal arrangement such as providing for your pet in your will or trust.

Informal Arrangements

Talk to someone about caring for your pet if you are hospitalized and when you die.  Make sure you have a backup person too and make sure your pet caretakers know how to reach each other.  Provide your pet caretaker with important information about your pet, such as diet, medical conditions and medicines, vet information and any behaviors the caretaker needs to know.

Formal Arrangements

If you prefer to make more formal arrangements for your pet – consider a Pet Trust.

You can provide for a pet in a Will, but Wills have to go through probate and this can be a lengthy process.  If you have made an informal arrangement with someone, you could use a Will to gift your chosen caretaker money to help compensate him or her for caring for your pet.  The important thing to keep in mind is that it may be several months or longer before the caretaker receives the money.  There is also no way to insure the money left to your pet caretaker through your will, is actually used to care for your pet.  You cannot give money directly to your pet.  Under the law, pets are considered personal property and can’t own property.

Creating a Pet Trust is probably the best and easiest way to provide for your pet if you are hospitalized and after you pass.  A trust is essentially an agreement between you (the grantor), and your trustee, setting out what you want to happen with property titled in the name of the trust, if you become incapacitated and on your death.  In a Pet Trust, you provide instructions for the care of your pet, including who will be the caretaker, and you also set aside assets to be used for your pet’s care.  The terms of a Pet Trust can be as simple or as complex as you want.

For more information on caring for your pet if you can’t, check out the resources provided by the ASPCA at

Written May 17, 2020 by Stephanie Martinez

Contact our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for assistance regarding Estate Planning or Elder Law, including planning for your pet.

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