In recent years, legal matters concerning pets have gained more attention from the press as celebrities engage in highly publicized custody battles over their furry children. The late Hugh Hefner was featured on the cover of National Geographic after winning custody of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel he shared with Chrissy Harris during the couple’s brief split, becoming one of many celebrities to fight for the right to keep a family pet after a break up. After working hard to obtain custody of a pet, it is important to make plans for the care of that pet in the event that your pet outlives you. Including a pet in an estate plan is not difficult if you have the assistance of an estate planning attorney who understands your needs.

Name a Pet Guardian

A person or organization should be named as the guardian of your pet. The person you choose should be someone you trust to follow your instructions and provide your pet with the quality of care you desire. Make sure you discuss your choice with the guardian you prefer prior to naming them and consider the preferences of other family members or friends. Naming a guardian who has a close relationship with your pet or who is good with animals is often a better choice than a person who has had limited interaction with pets. Use your best judgment when choosing and naming a guardian for your pet.

Provide Funds for Care

Leaving funds for the care of your pet is not mandatory, but it is a good idea especially if the person you have named as guardian has had financial troubles in the past. Designating funds for the care of your pet helps to ensure that they receive the quality of care that you yourself would have provided. The funds you leave can be provided in the form of a pet trust, a percentage of an insurance policy, or in a specific bank account. In addition to funds that will be used to pay for the pet’s medical care, food, and basic care remember to include money to pay for the named guardian or other family members to travel to retrieve the pet if they live in a different state.

Write Detailed Instructions

Just like any other aspect of estate planning, the instructions you would like to be followed should be carefully documented. Recording all preferences, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, will help prevent disagreements or confusion in the future. Information such as medical care preferences, wishes regarding keeping pets together, and transitional guardians should all be included in your estate plan along with a description of the pet itself. The more details you provide, the easier it will be for your beneficiaries and those named to care for your pet to carry out your instructions.

Talk to an Attorney

If you or someone close to you is interested in updating an estate plan to include a loved family pet, speaking to an estate planning attorney is always recommended. An attorney can review your existing estate plan, or help you create a new one that accommodates your pet without impacting other aspects of your will. The team at MMZ Law understands how important it is to plan for all eventualities, and we will work with you to make sure that you have peace of mind knowing your loved ones are all cared for. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Claremont, California location so that we can begin discussing your needs.



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.