Estate Planning Considerations: Pet(s)

By Brierton, Jones & Jones
April 12, 2024

Pet ownership continues to steadily increase in the U.S. In 1988, only 56% of U.S. households owned a pet. Now, in 2024, that number has grown to 66%.1 Pets are important companions for their owners. In fact, roughly half of U.S. pet owners consider their pets a member of their family.2

If you have a furry friend that you consider part of your family, including them in your estate plan is essential.

What to Consider Before Meeting With Your Estate Planner

One of the first things to consider is who you would like to care for your pet(s) after you are gone, someone who is capable of providing the same level of love and care as you do. For example, if your pet is accustomed to living in a house with a yard, having someone who lives in an apartment care for them may not be the best option.

You should also discuss estate planning for pets with the person or people you want to designate in your plan. Your estate plan is a way for you to advocate your wishes, but it cannot force someone to care for an animal if they do not want to.

The next thing to consider is where your pet(s) will go if no one is available to care for them. Would you want your pet(s) to be surrendered to an animal shelter? If you do not want your pet(s) to live in a shelter, it's essential to state that in your plan. You can also state your preferences if you would like them to only go to specific rescue centers or sanctuaries.

Another consideration is the costs of caring for your pet(s). In 2022, the average cost of owning a cat or dog was around $500 and $1,000 per year, respectively.3 You want to ensure there are sufficient funds to cover their continued care and maintenance costs.

Some things to think about include but are not limited to, food, routine health care, toys, grooming, pet insurance, and emergency vet visits. To approximate the total cost you should allocate, consider the age of your pet(s) and their average life expectancy.

Where to Include Pet(s) in Your Estate Plan

One place to include your pet(s) in your estate plan is in a trust. You can add a provision to your trust to designate who you would like to be responsible for the care and maintenance of your pet(s). You can also designate alternates if someone named is unable or willing to care for your pet(s). This provision can also allow your trustee to distribute trust assets for the cost of pet care.

A general durable power of attorney is another place to include pet care. You can add a power to allow your agent to use your funds for pet costs. Doing so could allow your agent to pay for dog walkers, vet visits, or other related expenses. Adding such a power enables your agent to care for your pet(s) without paying out of their own pocket.

What to Do Beyond Your Estate Plan

Beyond including your pet(s) in your estate plan, you should compile a detailed list of information and instructions for whoever will take care of them. This list should include:

  • Veterinary information
  • Grooming instructions
  • Prescription instructions
  • Allergy information

Keep this list with your estate plan and/or send it to your designated pet caretaker(s).

By modifying your estate plan or creating a pet estate plan, you can ensure they are cared for in the event that something happens to you. Without clear guidance, it may become the responsibility of your personal representative to arrange for the care of your pet(s).

If you are interested in creating or modifying your estate plan to include your pet(s), reach out to Brierton, Jones & Jones today. Our talented team can assist with protecting your beloved companions.

1 American Pet Products Association, “2023-2024 National Pet Owners Survey Report”

2 Pew Research Center, “About half of U.S. pet owners say their pets are as much a part of their family as a human member” (July 7, 2023)

3 American Veterinary Medical Association, “2022 Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook”

Let Us Represent You

When you need a probate, trust, and estate attorney who will listen, offer solutions, and help you solve your problem, Brierton, Jones & Jones, LLP is here for you.

(619) 696-7066