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  • Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.

How to protect your pet from an uncertain future if you aren’t here.

No one likes to think about their own death or lengthy disability, whether untimely or not when you have a pet you really need to make plans for their care if you are not there. It breaks my heart to read stories of horrible things that happen to pets when plans aren’t discussed and arranged in advance. So, as much as this topic is not one any of us wants to think about, please take time to read this blog and find out what you need to do to protect your pet from an uncertain future.

The belief that pets can be adequately protected if they are mentioned in a Will is a myth.

The courts do not protect animals, because pets are legally classified as property. If you’re like me your fur-baby means more to you than the vase or the desk—they are our best friends, companions, and family (sometimes the owners’ only friends, companions, or family). Also, since a will goes into effect only upon your death, it cannot provide care for your pets if you become seriously injured or ill, unlike a traditional pet trust.


As painful as it is to think of not being there for your beloved pet,— there is no greater sense of security then knowing that your best friend and companion is provided for in the case of lengthy disability or your death.

A trust created separately from the will carries certain benefits. Unlike a simple directive in a will, a pet trust provides a host of additional protections and advantages. It can be written to exclude certain assets from the probate process so that funds are more readily available immediately and can apply not only if you die, but also if you become ill or incapacitated. That’s because you determine when your trust becomes effective. When you create a trust for your pet, you set aside money to be used for her/ his care and you specify a trustee to control the funds.

You must name a trustee and a caregiver; These can be the same person if you trust him or her with financial as well as pet-care matters. If you want the oversight a trustee provides, choose someone with financial and pet smarts for the role. That way, your appointed caregiver has a knowledgeable partner to share responsibility for your pets. This could be a family member of friend who cannot take your pet for whatever reason, but who wants the best for them.


Get assistance from legal professional when making formal arrangements. An attorney can review complex issues regarding wills, trusts, complications in carrying out animal care instructions, and any additional documents you may need.

You can also set up a Power of Attorney that authorizes a designated person to conduct some of your affairs if you become physically or mentally incapacitated. You can add provisions to authorize the person designated to handle your affairs to take care of your animals, to make available money for their care, and to place pets with permanent caregivers if need be.


If you live alone, carry a card in your wallet and post a note at home that states who should be called to take custody something were to happen to you. Put that person’s number in your cell phone, and give that person a key to your home. Unimaginable? Yes. Vital to their health and well-being? Absolutely.

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