Does Your Pet Have an Estate Plan?

Our pets are often as much a beloved part of the family as are our children, yet they are all too often the forgotten loved ones when it comes to estate planning. With our nationís†senior population expected to double from 2012 to 2050, that means hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pets are at risk.

Should we, or our loved one, need to be moved into a care facility, or worse, pass on, there should be a plan in place that has the pet’s and owner’s best interests in mind. In an†owner’s’ sudden absence, animals can show signs†of anxiety that may be mistaken for aggression, sadly resulting in being sent to an animal shelter or worse, put down. This would likely be†devastating†to the senior and not what they would want for their beloved pet.

Although you canít replace the seniorís own voice, touch, how he/she plays with the pet, or just how he or she spends time walking the dog.†The best that can be done is to have all of the alternatives well established in case the pet must be separated from its trusted friend.

A pet estate plan should include the following:

1. The Petís medications and health history must be clearly articulated.

Like humans, pets often take medications.† Is there a medication list? Dosages identified? Times of administering the medications listed? Veterinarian identified? Emergency hospital identified?† If the senior is incapacitated, these items cannot be communicated.

2. Alternative living locations must be identified.

If the senior needs to go to the hospital for a short stay, where will the pet live on a temporary basis?† Is there a boarding home that has already been selected?† Is there a friend or relative to be the caretaker for the pet until the senior returns?

If there is a catastrophic event with the senior, where he or she passes away or must move to a facility where pets are not allowed, where will the pet reside on a permanent basis?† Has the pet been previously introduced to this person?† Has the person consented in advance?† Are there funds to support the pet identified in the seniorís estate plan?† If the worst happens, is there a ďno-killĒ shelter identified that will take the pet?

3. Petís attributes must be identified.

Tragically there are many animals that are needlessly killed or destroyed by others due to the pet not being understood.† Dogs in particular can be possessive and territorial.† They sense stress and tragedy and react as you would expect.† Understanding the characteristics is important to protect the animal from needless harm since they cannot communicate on their own.† Their character must be articulated and should include aggressive tendencies, if any, their territorial nature, their habits, bowel habits, whether they are crate-trained, and other characteristics that may affect how the pet is treated by third parties under stressful conditions.

4. Pet records must be identified and accessible.

There is no ďPet-Veterinarian PrivilegeĒ but if the location of records and contact information is not available, then caring for the pet can be more difficult.† Has the pet been inoculated?† Are they current?† Where are the records located?† It is not uncommon for a pet to have had more than one Vet over its lifetime. The records may be scattered among several Veterinarian offices.† Where are the records location?† Is there a chip implant?† What is the company name, code and password to communicate with the chip company?

5. The petís diet and other food must be clearly identified.

What is the regular food, feeding times, amounts?† Many pets have digestion issues if food is changed which can be very messy.† Are allergies identified?

6. Pet provisions must be drafted into the seniorís estate plan in case of death.

The people that will take the pet must be identified in the estate plan.† Funding for the ongoing care needs to be clearly articulated.

After watching thousands of families struggle through the eldercare process, I wrote a book and accompanying guide, including a chapter just on pets, that takes out all the guesswork for families starting their eldercare journey by packing all the necessary information into one place. †Whether you go it alone or use an estate-planning attorney, I canít emphasize enough the importance of planning ahead.

About the Author

Stuart Furman, Esq., is an elder law attorney of 34 years. He is President of the Southern California Legal Center, Inc. and author of The ElderCare Ready Book†(2015) and†The ElderCare Ready Pack (2015).† For further information, please visit†

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

An eye-opener of an article.

Philipa Longley
Philipa Longley2 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Hussein Khalil
Hussein Khalil2 years ago


Carla van der Meer

This proves we are finally over complicating things. Companion animals are becoming tpp complicated an issue. We recently lost our 13 year old basset hound and I despetately need another dog on my life but i find myself horrified by the amount of idiots out there charging vast sums of money for what would have been called MUTTS not so long ago.Thousands of dollars for Larbrdoodles (???!!) Hundrtteds of dollars for mixed breed pups, whose linage could lead to some horrible looking dogs. Why these animals are not fixed is beyond me. Time to start charging backyard breeders/ And to the men out there who have an unhealthy attachment to their male dogs jumk, get your head examined (after you have him snipped)

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Good information that people might not think about.

ERIKA S2 years ago

thank you

Jan N.
Jan N2 years ago

Barring unforeseen circumstances, I should outlive all my pets. I will then have to evaluate my situation to see if adopting a senior animal seems doable or if I will just have to go without.

I cannot reasonably expect anyone to take on 8 cats and a dog, so they would have to go to a shelter. Depressing to contemplate, as I doubt any of them would be adopted, particularly the senior dog with heart issues and the middle-aged cat with diabetes.

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn2 years ago


Nimue P.

Thank you for this story, it's something a lot of people never even think about, and it needs thinking about.