How To Provide For Your Pet Family With A Trust

How To Provide For Your Pet Family With A Trust

Tax season is when many Americans re-assess all the major financial decisions in their lives. Recently, several of our clients have asked me about the welfare of their pets if they (the owner) were to die. When many of us pass middle age, our minds start to ponder that “what if” scenario and most of the folks who have discussed this with me don’t want to completely burden their families with the financial care of their pets. They definitely don’t want them to end up in an animal shelter or worse.

Legal Plans for pets were once thought a rare luxury for the wealthy, fueled by notorious cases like the 2007 lawsuit over tycoon Leona Helmley’s attempt to leave $12 million to her dog, and the ensuing public legal dust up with her human heirs.

Wills and estate plans for humans are often complex, but a plan for your pets’ care is surprisingly intuitive and straightforward.

There has been an evolution of pet law and there are now easily accessible ways for average pet owners to prepare simple and inexpensive documents that can ensure their beloved companions do not end up abandoned.

Two good websites to investigate first are the ASPCA’s Pet Planning site: (www. and LegalZoom’s pet protection agreements: (, which start under $50.

The attorney who developed LegalZoom’s agreement answered questions in an article I read.

    Q: What happens to a pet when the owner is incapacitated or dies when there is no plan for them?

    A: If animals have been abandoned, by law, they are required to go to a city shelter. They are considered abandoned property.

    Q: How many people, in your experience, make a provision for their pets in their wills?

    A: It’s about 25%. Putting a sentence in your will is the least expensive. You just say, “I leave my dog to…” You might want to add a sentence describing the food you feed, any long term medications, and the name of your veterinarian.

    Q: What if you want to leave funds for the care of the pet and more detailed instructions in a formal document?

    A: You go to an attorney and pay the price. Some attorneys charge $500 and some up to $2500. Choose wisely, remember it’s not the cost that makes a good valid agreement, but the talent. Find an attorney who practices pet law. There are now pet law courses in law schools and continuing education programs available to attorneys. As I said earlier, a good place to start is with the websites listed above. If done incorrectly, you, or your estate, can be sued by your disgruntled heirs.

    Q: Do you have to provide funds to care for your pets when you die?

    A: You don’t have to leave a dime, or leave as much as you want. Everyone’s situation is different. Willing your pet to a friend or relative will potentially entail significant ongoing care, so think this through carefully.

I hope this helps to start the discussion about the best, compassionate future care of your pets.

If you’ve missed back editions of my weekly newsletter, they are archived on our website under the “newsletter” tab. Also there are pet care educational videos addressing many common pet problems archived under the “videos” tab. Check them out.


Many kennels and doggie day cares will be requiring Canine Flu vaccines by this summer. The two strains of Canine Flu in the US are novel viruses that ALL DOGS WHO CONTACT IT WILL CONTRACT.

Social dogs who frequently go to day care, dog parks, or kennels should be immunized twice the first year, then annually. Many of our local doggie daycares and kennels have imposed a time deadline by which your dog must be immunized. To assist our clients’ compliance, if your pet has had a wellness exam within the past six months and is not obviously ill, a technician visit can be scheduled for the initial immunization and boost 2-4 weeks later.

Call our receptionists to set up a flu vaccine appointment.

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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