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Planning for Pets

06.20.23 written by

On April 24, 2023, Chewy, a one-stop shop and online retailer of pet products, launched a new commercial titled “Inheritance,” as part of its “Pets Aren’t Just Pets, They’re More” campaign.  The 30-second commercial is set in a law office, with a late father’s three adult children and beloved cat, Mr. Marbles. The attorney is reading the terms of the father’s Will, which designates some specific assets, including his company and model train set, to pass to his children.  The family is then informed that the Will provides for Mr. Marbles to receive recurring deliveries for all of his needs in perpetuity through Chewy’s Autoship program, as well as the summer house.

While it is not possible for a pet to own real estate, the commercial highlights the importance of planning for pets.  Pet owners need to consider what would happen to their pet in the event of their death or disability.  Would their Mr. Marbles be well cared for?

A recent survey conducted by Chewy revealed that 42% of pet owners either would include or have included pets in their Wills.  Much of the remaining 58% of pet owners likely assume their friends or family members will ensure their pet is cared for should they become incapacitated or pass away.  However, in most states, including Ohio, pets are treated as tangible personal property. Without proper planning, pets may be left to the wrong beneficiary, or they could end up neglected, placed in a shelter, or even euthanized.

If you are a pet owner, you should consider including specific provisions for your pet in your estate plan documents that address some or all of the following:

  • Who will care for and make decisions regarding your pet following your incapacity or death?
  • What are your specific preferences regarding your pet’s care and maintenance, including end-of-life care for them?
  • How will the costs of caring for your pet be paid?

Pet planning can be accomplished through traditional estate planning documents, such as Wills, revocable trusts, and powers of attorney.  Sometimes, planning for pets is more tailored and can include specific pet planning documents, such as a pet trust. A pet trust is a legally enforceable arrangement that provides for funds to be administered by a trustee to provide for the care of the pet during the pet’s lifetime. The trust can provide for current pets and pets that join your family in the future.

When you consult with your estate planning attorney about planning for your family, be sure to also include a plan for the care and well-being of your four-legged family members.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

Written by:
Danielle Halachoff Frye, Esq.
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.
4775 Munson St. NW, Canton, OH 44718