What Happens to My Pet if I Die?

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Make sure your pet is well cared for and find out what happens if you pass away.

Sadly, when a pet owner passes away decisions must be made for any pets left behind. In the best of situations, a pet will continue to live in the same home with surviving relatives. Little preparation is required in these cases and the pet will most likely be well cared for. But what happens to your pet if you pass away without a designated caregiver for them? See how the options below and a little planning can ensure your pet’s future.

Estate Planning and Pets

If the pet owner lives alone with the pet they might be moved to a new home. In these cases, the owner should plan for the care of the pet after the owner’s death. The owner’s wishes can either be part of a will or simply included in written instructions left with a trusted friend or family member. For the most part, even oral instructions can be enough to ensure the pet’s well-being. However, only a will can provide legal assurance that an owner’s wishes for the pet will be followed. In rare cases, a dispute over where a pet should go after an owner dies could arise. A will would resolve such a dispute.

Some pet owners may want to create a trust to ensure the care of their pet by allocating money specifically for the care of the pet after the owner’s death. An estate lawyer would need to be consulted to create a trust in this circumstance. Each state has different laws regarding pet trusts. A trust provides the maximum assurance that a pet will be cared for in accordance with an owner’s wishes.

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Like all personal affairs, you can take proactive steps to help settle your affairs after you die. Pets are considered property under the law. As such, ownership would transfer according to relevant estate laws regarding property. At a minimum, every pet owner should speak with a family member or friend and advise them of their wishes concerning their pet if something unexpected occurs.

Preparing a Caregiver

Finally, it is important to prepare a caregiver in order for your pet to receive the best care. Pet owners should provide the name of a designated person to the pet’s veterinarian so that person will be able to continue medical care for the pet after the owner’s death. Pet insurance can also help ease the financial burdens on the new caregiver associated with this care. Similarly, once the pet owner has decided who will care for the pet, they should provide updated information to that person to ensure a smooth transition. Necessary information includes medical records, pet insurance policies and any other aspect of the pet’s care that the new owner will need to care for your pet. Consider this list from Petfinder.com concerning what information a new caregiver might need.

It can be difficult to acknowledge the possibility of something unexpected happening. Despite this difficulty, it’s important your furry loved ones are taken care of and given the best possible future in the event of your absence.


Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney in your state.

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