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How to Provide for Your Pets After Your Death

Nobody wants to think about it, but pet owners need to consider where their pets will go if something happens to them. You might have friends or relatives that you assume will care for them once you’re gone, but do they understand the implications of caring for your pets?  If you don’t have a plan in place, your pets could be left to a fate you definitely don’t want -- being taken someplace you wouldn’t want them to go, or simply abandoned.

Even if you are young and in good health, you should consider perpetual care for your pets along with your other estate planning needs.  If you have trusted friends and relatives willing and able to care for your pets, discuss your wishes with them, and verify they are truly committed to caring for your pets (they might be agreeing to do it now to be polite, but might not be willing or able to when the time comes). Ask them to sign an agreement, and provide specific instructions for your pets’ care, including contact information for your veterinarian.  If your pets are on medication or special diets, or have other care requirements, caregivers will need to know this.  You should give this information to caregivers as soon as possible in case of emergency. 

You can grant a caregiver power of attorney so that they can make decisions regarding your pets if you die or become incapacitated. If possible, allocate some money in your will for your pets’ care -- particularly if you are asking someone to purchase medicines, specialized foods, or vet care.  In the US, you generally cannot bequeath money directly to a pet, as pets are considered property and therefore can’t inherit an estate in most jurisdictions.  Rather, you can name a caregiver as a beneficiary on behalf of your pets, though that person is not obligated to spend the inheritance on your pets.  

You can also establish a pet trust for your pets, though that can be complicated and expensive.  An attorney with expertise in estate planning can help you set up a pet trust or otherwise earmark funds for your pets. 

If you do not know of anyone who can care for your pets, investigate organizations that offer perpetual care for pets.  Often, pet sanctuaries will agree to take one’s pets for a fee, though that fee can be substantial.  One such facility in New Jersey is Tabby’s Place near Princeton.  

Your veterinarian or local animal rescues may be able to recommend perpetual care facilities and sanctuaries, though most rescues -- including Purrfect Angels -- do not provide perpetual care service.

Updated January 31, 2023

DISCLAIMER:  These resources are provided for information purposes only.  Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue makes no warranty as to the performance or availability of these resources, and inclusion of a resource here does not necessarily imply endorsement.  Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue has no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these listed resources.  This article is not a substitute for professional legal advice.  Consult a qualified estate planning attorney concerning care plans for your pets and other estate matters.

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