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Considerations for including pets in wills

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Blog, Wills

Many families consider pets beloved family members. It is no wonder that some owners want to include them in their wills to ensure their care after the owners pass.

However, including a pet is not the same as including another person. There are special considerations.


Pets cannot care for themselves the way a fully capable adult human can. One option for is to designate a caregiver who will take responsibility for the pet’s care. This person can be a friend, family member or even a trusted pet sitter. Individuals should discuss this arrangement with the chosen caregiver beforehand to ensure he or she is willing and able to fulfill this role.


Because they cannot speak and think like humans and do not have the same legal rights, pets need more protection for any assets left to cover the financial aspect of their care. One way to provide for a pet in a will is to set up a pet trust. In Massachusetts, a pet trust allows the owner to designate funds specifically for the care of his or her pet, including expenses such as food, veterinary care and grooming. The owner can appoint a trustee to manage these funds and ensure their usage is solely for the pet’s benefit according to the decedent’s wishes.


When including a pet in a will, owners need to be clear and specific about their intentions. It is important to identify the pet by name, include any identifying information and ownership paperwork and provide detailed instructions for care, including any dietary restrictions, medical needs or preferred routines. Owners may also consider including a backup caregiver or trustee in case their primary choices are unable to fulfill their duties.

According to Pew Research Center, 97% of American pet owners classify their pets as full family members. It is natural to want to care for loved ones, whether they are human or not, and that includes making provisions in wills. However, it is important to remember that pets require extra consideration.


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