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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


Think about who should care for your pets, and how their care will be paid for. (For ideas, click here.)

Make arrangements for someone to take possession of your pet immediately. Let that person know about your pet's special needs as well as contact information for your veternarian.

For the longer haul, think about with whom your pet should live and how to provide finances for your pet's care.

You can provide for the care of your pet in your Will, a Trust or a Pet Protection Agreement. (For more information, click here.)

If you don't provide for your pets, they could be sent to a shelter, or possibly even put down. From a legal persepctive, a pet is property, not a loving companion.


  • If you do not live alone, clarify who owns the pet. With a family, everyone may think the pet is theirs. If there is any question, have a discussion with all family members. To be safe, ask each to date and sign a piece of paper that says you own the pet.
  • If you adopted your pet, confirm with the organization from which you adopted it that you are the legal owner. There are some agencies that continue to own the animal even after it is "adopted". They have been known to reclaim the animal on the death of the "owner" - even when there is another person who has bonded with the animal and is willing and capable of taking care of it.
  • Make sure that all of your pets are accounted for.
  • Give a copy of whatever documents you sign to all the people named in the document, your pet's veterinarian, and anyone else who might be present and willing to act on your pet's behalf when you cannot.
  • Ask the people who will care for the pet to check on the pet as soon as they hear that you have become unable to take care of the pet, have become hospitalized or died. Be sure they have a key and know the animals habits (including food and exercise).

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Wills 101 Trusts 101

Who To Leave Your Pet With

When deciding the identify of the person or people to leave your pet with, consider the following:

  • Is there someone in your life who loves your pet as much as you do? Or at least loves the type of pet you have? (If you don't have a person to whom to leave your pet, consider a program at a local veternary school or Humane Society, particularly those that look for new homes for pets.)
  • You can direct the Personal Representative/Executor of your estate to find a suitable new home for your pet after your death. You can also give your executor the discretionary power to provide payment of a specified amount of money for the pet's continued care.
  • There are non-profit organizations that assist with pet care issues. If you are unable to locate anyone to care for your pet, you can look for a local organization that would find a new home for your pet.
  • Animal Retirement Homes do exist. Ask your vet or contact a veterinary school to find out if there is an animal retirement home in your area. These are usually non-profit facilities that provide pets with a comfortable environment to live out their "golden years." Animal Retirement Homes are not cheap. Typical cost for a year: $10,000.

How To Provide For The Care Of Your Pet

You can leave money to care for your pet in either your Will, in a Trust or in a Pet Protection Agreement..

A Will

Do not leave money or other assets to your pet in your Will. (It's not legal.) While you can mention any arrangements you've made for the care of your pet after your death, do not leave anything to your pet through your Will. It simply isn't legal. You can however "bequeath" your pet in your Will and can leave money or property to the individual who has agreed to care for your pet. You can leave money:

  • Through a life insurance policy, naming the person who will take care of your pet as beneficiary.
  • Through a bank account "Payable on death" to the person.
  • By establishing a trust for the care of your pet.

A Trust (sometimes referred to as a "Pet Trust")

A trust for the benefit of your pets Is like any trust. An easy-to-understand way to describe a trust is: you put money or other assets into a paper bag, hand the bag to someone, and write instructions on the bag telling the person what to do with the contents.

  • The trust document can describe specifically how you want your pet cared for.
  • You can have a trust tailor-made to your needs. Depending on the state in which you live, an alternative is to establish a statutory pet trust.
  • You can establish the trust while you are alive or in your Will.
  • If you establish a trust in your Will, be sure there are arrangemetns in place to take care of your pet until the Will takes effect - which can be a long time after death if your Will is contested or if your estate is complicated.
  • Name a beneficiary to receive the money that is left over after your pet dies.
  • To help avoid challenges, only leave an amount that is reasonable to take care of the pet. Put the provisions what you want done in the trust document rather than a non-binding side letter.
  • To avoid fraud, create a means of identifying your pet - such as a DNA sample, or a chip inserted under the skin.
  • Speak to your lawyer or estate planner for further guidance. An alternative to consider is a company such as Pet-Guardian, offsite link, which creates pet trusts and a cost analysis to determine how much money will be needed to care for your pet. A book on the subject is All My Chidlren Wear Fur Coats: How To Leave A Legacy For Your Pet by Peggy Hoyt, Esq. (Legacy Planning Partners LLC, 2002)

Pet Protection Agreement

A Pet Protection Agreement is a legally enforceable document that ensures continuing care for your pet by legally binding someone to take care of the pet if you cannot.  It is not necessary to leave money for the care of your pet in this document, although the document does alllow for inclusion of monetary provisions. An easy to use form is available for a small fee from offsite link.  (At LegalZoom, click on "Wills and Trusts", then on "pet Protection Agreement")

Additional Resources

Additional free information is available as follows:

  • The Humane Society of the U.S. has a free kit which can be obtained by contacting: petsinwills at husus dot org
  • From Steven Baker, a trusts and estates lawyer in Scottsdale, AZ at: Note that Mr. Baker's disclaimer suggests you consult with a local lawyer before acting.
  • offsite link