It is very common to for pet owners to arrange for a friend or family member to take care of a pet after the owner passes away. Siblings or best friends might agree, for example, to take care of each other’s pets should one of them pass away.
However, these arrangements have no legal effect.
People might view their pets as friends or family members, but legally pets are property. Legally when a current owner passes away ownership of the pet will be determined by a will or the laws of intestate succession.
According to the Globe and Mail in "Estate planning: Is your dog or cat in the family will?" more and more people are choosing to make their pets part of their estate plans to get around this legal problem.
The easiest way to provide for your pet in an estate plan is to state in your will who is to get ownership of the pet. In addition, you can choose to leave a sum of money to that person for the care of your pet.
Alternatively, a more elaborate approach is to create a trust that can be funded with assets to provide for the pet. The trustee would then be responsible for ensuring those assets are used appropriately.
If you would like to provide for your pet after you pass away, the first step is a simple one. You do not have to start by deciding how to do it. All that you need to do is get an estate plan.
Let an estate planning attorney know your wishes and he or she can help you pick the best way to fulfill those wishes.
Reference: Globe and Mail (March 10, 2016) "Estate planning: Is your dog or cat in the family will?"