Think about what your pets really need for continued care.

If your pets are very important to you and your family, you can include and protect them in your estate plan, according to’s Unleashed in “Don’t Leave Pets Out of Estate Planning.”

The simplest approach is to leave your pets and some cash to those you trust to care for your pets. The risk is that the trusted person won’t do a good job and will spend the money on themselves. This approach is generally fine for common household pets with relatively limited lifespans.

Traditionally, the law did not permit trusts for animals as beneficiaries, but a large number of states (including Massachusetts) has changed this by statute. A Pet Trust is a better approach if you want certainty for your pets, or if you have larger pets with longer life expectancies and more expensive needs, such as horses. The downside of pet trusts is that they are considerably more expensive to draft and set up, and usually need to be funded (at death) with considerably more cash than you might expect. A deep understanding of your state’s Pet Trust statute is needed by the attorney you are working with.

There are two other alternatives. One is to have your executor or trustee give the animal to an organization with a program that cares for animals once the owner has died. Make sure to contact the organization and follow their guidelines in your estate plan. There may be a donation or fees involved.

Finally, some charitable organizations may be interested in your animal. For example, there are some horse farms that have programs for special needs children that may be interested in donations of horses that meet their needs and criteria. Again, make sure to contact the organization to see what is feasible.

An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include your pets.

Resource: Unleashed (April 16, 2018) “Don’t Leave Pets Out of Estate Planning”