In a nationwide pet owner survey, the American Pet Products Association discovered that 68% of all households in the United States own at least one pet. The number of families owning pets has increased steadily over the years and healthcare providers have started placing a larger emphasis on forms of pet therapy. Multiple industries that provide pet-centered products (insurance, clothing, toys, etc.) have experienced significant growth, while Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson were just one of several celebrity couples who engaged in a lengthy pet custody battle.  Since pets are treated as part of your family during your life, it is only natural to include a pet in an estate plan.

Temporary and Long-Term Guardian

Never assume that the person you want to care for your pet is going to be able to immediately retrieve your pet from your home. If your chosen guardian is out of town, sick, or incapacitated, there is no certain way to know who will find your pet and where that person will take them.  There are shelters and safe homes that take in pets after their owners pass away, but unless you leave instructions, you have little control over which organization will retrieve your pet. The Humane Society encourages pet parents to make plans for the long-term care of their pets and naming one or two temporary guardians provides your pet with immediate care when they need it most.  

Plan for their Expenses

The level of care and comfort many pets receive directly corresponds with their owner’s socioeconomic status. A family with some disposable income is able to purchase pet insurance or pay for regular medical care while those with little income rely on free or low cost clinics.  Never assume that your chosen guardian has the financial resources to maintain the standard of care and medical treatment that your pet is used to. Instead, plan to leave money that will be used for their care. A trust that is established with the intention of caring for your pet ensures that the guardian you name can continue to provide the level of care your pet is used to receiving without creating a financial burden.

Avoid Conflicts of Interest

Creating a trust for your pet is similar to setting up a trust for minor children or incapacitated adults. Since your pet children cannot manage their own finances, a trustee is named to make sure the money is used in the manner you requested. While it is possible to have the same person serve as your pet’s guardian and trustee, the dual roles can create a conflict of interest. Even if the person you name to both roles is completely trustworthy, he or she may be questioned by other beneficiaries who believe they should have control of the trust.

Talk to a Pet Friendly Attorney

Estate plans that include a pet are becoming more common, and finding a firm that genuinely cares about the well-being of your pet is important. The compassionate attorneys at MMZ Law are here to discuss your concerns and help you determine what is best for your family. Our trust and estate lawyers are prepared to answer your questions while providing the legal advice you need. Contact us today and schedule a consultation at our Claremont, California office so that we can begin helping you protect those you love most.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.