How to Prepare a Last Will & Testament Including Dogs

By Marie Murdock

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one National Guard officer estimated that 30 to 40 percent of people refused to evacuate because they could not take their pets with them. Pets have become such an important part of their owners’ lives that they are often as important as any child or grandchild. During Katrina, people did not want to abandon their dogs to the mercy of a hurricane without making sure they were fed and sheltered; similarly, many pet owners do not want to leave this life without a will providing that same care for their pets.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one National Guard officer estimated that 30 to 40 percent of people refused to evacuate because they could not take their pets with them. Pets have become such an important part of their owners’ lives that they are often as important as any child or grandchild. During Katrina, people did not want to abandon their dogs to the mercy of a hurricane without making sure they were fed and sheltered; similarly, many pet owners do not want to leave this life without a will providing that same care for their pets.

Step 1

Establish a trust in your will for the benefit of your dog. A relative, friend, veterinarian or veterinarian’s assistant may agree to act as trustee of any testamentary trust -- a trust established in your will -- for the benefit of your dog. You will need to provide enough money in the trust to cover your dog’s needs during the remainder of his lifetime.

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Step 2

Designate a caregiver for the dog in your will in the event your assets aren’t sufficient to establish a trust. Pets are considered personal property, so you would basically be gifting your pet to the caregiver. You may direct that a portion of your assets be devised directly to the caregiver to cover vet bills, medications, his favorite food, toys and any necessary boarding costs.

Step 3

Include a provision in your will requiring regular veterinary check-ups and someone to check on the dog's health and quality of care periodically. A greedy caregiver who cares more about your bequest than the health of your pet may be charged with a case of animal cruelty.

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