Not all that long ago, an estate planning lawyer would have given you an odd look if you had inquired about creating a "pet trust" or otherwise including your animals in your estate planning. But now, if you don't bring it up, your lawyer is likely to. A sizeable percentage of people who go to lawyers about wills and trusts want to take steps to make sure that if their animals outlive them, they will be well taken care of.
It's a reasonable concern. Many animals end up being surrendered to shelters after their owners die, and many of them do not find new homes. Usually, family members want to ensure a better outcome for the animals, but simply may not be able to take care of them or find a suitable home. Especially if the pet is older, ill, or unusual--think of a macaw, which can live to age 80 or above--finding a new home can be very difficult. And the wave of foreclosures in recent years has meant that many families formerly in their own homes are now in rentals, many of which don't allow animals.
Luckily, with some planning, you can provide for your pets, and make sure that they'll always have a home. Here are some of your options.