Why your dog should be in your will

Why your dog should be in your will
Photo courtesy of Amy Morris.

Is your dog written into your will? Here’s why you should add him in!

I’m “only” in my mid-fifties, but a number of years ago my husband and I decided to prepare our wills. The main reason we did this was to identify specific animal charities as beneficiaries. However, a secondary but equally important driver was to ensure we had named a caregiver for our dog should we unexpectedly pass away. We also wanted to allocate sufficient funds to that caregiver so our pup could continue to live the spoiled lifestyle to which he had become accustomed!

Is naming a caregiver for your dog really necessary?

While the idea might seem unnecessary, not naming a caregiver in the event of your death is a serious issue. You may think a family member or friend will immediately step up to care for your pet, but that is not always the case. Perhaps that person’s spouse won’t be as enthusiastic about the idea, or they may have other health or financial concerns that prevent them from taking on the responsibility. With no guardian designated, your pet might be sent to a shelter. This can be a stressful environment for any animal, let alone one that is coping with the changes that come with your passing.

Conversely, if you have a totally awesome dog, family members and friends may even debate over who would be the best guardian. And if there’s a decent sum of money attached to that caregiving agreement, the negotiations and legal delays could unfortunately leave your pet in limbo.

Choosing a caregiver

The first step is to think about who in your circle of family and friends your pet seems the most closely connected to. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospects, have a conversation with each person to see how they feel about being appointed as your pet’s guardian. You then want to speak with that person’s family members to make sure they too support the idea.

Other considerations

It is best not to mention the accompanying monetary gift upfront, as you want to know they truly wish to care for your beloved companion. But if the topic of cost comes up, be sure to include sufficient funds to cover your pet’s food, veterinary and other anticipated and unanticipated expenses for the number of years you feel your pet will live. You may also want to confidentially add a little extra to that amount as a thank you.

The structure for appointing a caregiver is similar to leaving a bequest gift to a friend or family member. Simply provide the person’s name, address and other contact details and the amount of money they are to receive, either in dollar terms or as a share of the estate. Any lawyer or notary public that specializes in wills and estates will be able to help you with the wording.

Naming a guardian will not only ensure your dog goes to a loving and familiar home but will provide you with comfort and peace of mind that your best friend will be cared for beyond your lifetime.