I'm a widow in my late 80s, and have no close relatives. My dearest friend is my golden retriever, who may well outlive me. How do I ensure care of my beloved dog after my death?
Whether or not you have relatives, the most important thing is to find someone who will take good care of your pet. First, be sure the person wants to take on the job. Then, specify in your will that you wish to leave the pet to that person.
It would also be a nice gesture -- although by no means legally required -- to leave the caretaker a chunk of change in your will to compensate him or her for the task. (You can't leave money directly to your pet. Much as we may feel that pets are family, the law views them as property.)
If you're unable to find someone both willing and able to take care of your pet, you may still have options. All around the country, programs are springing up to provide loving homes for pets after their owners die. For example, a number of SPCAs have created programs to find good homes for pets of deceased SPCA members. And several veterinary schools have set up programs that provide lifetime care for animals whose owners leave substantial endowments to the school. For more information, contact local SPCAs and similar organizations, or a veterinary school near you.