Believe it or not, I don’t get asked about pet estate planning very often. But you know what, it’s a damn good question to ask.
Ok, so first and foremost, pets are considered property in most (if not all) states in the union. That means that when you die, they get handled in roughly the same manner as your sofa. They aren’t treated like children, there is no guardian, and goddammit the court does not care about what happens to ol’ Fuzzybutt when you pass away.
See, I did an old joke video once with my friends at the United Way about a doofy guy who wanted to make sure his pet goat “Phyllis” was taken care of. I’ve re-posted it for this post and you’ll find it below. While the video is meant to be funny, it is actually a real issue—taking care of beloved pets with an estate plan is something I definitely do (but not often enough).
So here are a few examples:
In Ontario (that’s Canada folks), a gentleman named David Harper wanted to take care of his cat named Red. In order to do this, he donated all of his estate (valued in the millions) to a local church with one major condition—they had to take in Red and make sure that he was cared for. It worked. [Link]
Maria Assunta of Rome found 4-year-old Tomasso roaming the streets. She took the cat in and gave him a good life. Once her health began to fail, she created a trust worth $13,000,000 (that’s millions folks) to take care of Tomasso. Ms. Assunta’s nurse took ownership of Tomasso and was charged with caring for him. That cat was filthy rich. [Link]
FInally, we have Gunther IV, a German Shepherd. This doggo actually inherited its wealth from its father, who inherited from a German countess. He was worth over $300 million as of 2009. [Link]
As you can see, estate planning for your pet is not only something you can do, but something that can be passed down through the doggo generations.
ANYWAY… if you have a pet you adore and want to make sure they are taken care of when you die, you can make plans to fund their medical care and expenses. You might even be able to stick a church with caring for the pet. The sky is the limit.