Legacy Options for Pets

What if you don't know anyone who can care for your pet when you die?

Who will take care for your pet after you die?  Ideally, you know a trusted person who is willing and able to care for your pet when you pass away.   If so, talk to that person and make a plan.   Learn more about Estate Planning for Pets.  

However, if you’re not able to find a person both willing and able to take care of your pet after you die, you're not without options.  You can leave your pet to one of several types of programs designed to care for pets after their owners dies.

Types of Programs

SPCA programs. Many SPCA programs provide a special service to find good homes for the pets of deceased SPCA members. The new owners may be entitled to veterinary care at the SPCA's hospital. Contact local SPCAs and similar organizations in your area for more information.

Veterinary school programs. A few veterinary schools take in pets whose owners leave substantial endowments to the school. These programs typically provide a homelike atmosphere and lifetime veterinary care for the animals. Here is a list of some schools that currently offer this option:

Private animal sanctuaries and rescue organizations.   There are many private organizations that look after pets whose owners have passed away. Some keep the pets in their facilities for the pet’s lifetime; others find new homes for those pets. Typically, they require a flat fee of a few thousand dollars.   To find an organization near you, try googling “lifetime care,” the type of pet, and the name of your city, county or state.  For example, “lifetime care dog atlanta.”

Contacting the Program

After you find an organization that interests you, and before you hand over your money, carefully check its references and (and perhaps its history with the Better Business Bureau) to make sure that the organization is likely to still be around when your pet needs it.   Ask for details about:

The cost of the program.   Ask about initial upfront costs, fees required at your death, and ongoing costs that your estate may be required to pay.

The type of care.   Find out what type of care they provide.   Is it an animal sanctuary, where all of the animals live together? Or do they find loving homes for your pet? How much input can you have on the care that your pet receives?

Veterinary care.   What types of veterinary care does the program provide?   How is it paid for?   A

Special needs.   If your pet has any special needs, be sure to ask whether the program can accommodate your pet.

Final arrangements for your pet.   If you care to know, find out what will happen to your pet when he or she dies.   Can you leave funeral or memorial instructions?

How to Arrange Care in Your Estate Plan

After you find an organization you like and want to use, you will need to use your estate plan to make sure your pet gets there after you die.   For example, you may need to use your will to leave your pet (and perhaps money) to the organization.   Ask the program what it requires, if anything.   If the program doesn’t have specific instructions, you may want to ask a lawyer for help.   If necessary, you can search for an estate planning lawyer in your area using Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.    

For more about legal issues with pets, go to the Pet Law section of Nolo.com.

To learn more about how to plan for your pet, go to the Pets and Estate Planning section of Nolo.com.  

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How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you