What Happens to My Pets If I Pass Away | Estate Planning for Pet Owners

Losing a pet is simply devastating. If you have ever experienced it, you know the feeling of having your heart broken and not quite knowing how to put it back together.

Now, imagine the confusion and utter loss that our pets feel when they lose us. Not only do they not understand what is going on and what happened to their favourite human, but the comfort and stability of their home, toys and people, are now nothing more than a memory.

That’s why it’s important for pet owners (especially parrot owners), to create an Estate Plan so that your family and Executors know what your wishes are, and to not have to worry about what happens to my pets if I pass away.


How to Protect Your Pets When You Die

In Ontario, pets are considered property, so you cannot leave cash or set up a trust and have your pet as the beneficiary. Nonetheless, there are a lot of options that wil allow you to take care of them and ensure they are happy, even if you have departed this world.

1. Establishing a Pet Guardian

A pet guardian is someone who would take care of your pet if something happens to you. Establishing a pet guardian for your beloved animal in the event of your passing involves several important steps.

Firstly, choose a trusted individual who is willing and able to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet. It’s also wise to discuss your wishes with this person to ensure they are prepared.

Secondly, formalize your choice in legal documents such as a will or trust, which can include specific instructions for your pet’s care. It’s also important to discuss your wishes for pet in the event of your death, with your family and friends so they are aware and able to prepare.

what happens to my pet if I pass away

2. Create a Cash Legacy to a Pet Guardian

Creating a cash legacy for a pet guardian is a thoughtful way to ensure your pet’s care continues after you’re gone. You can do this by leaving a specific sum of money to the chosen guardian in your will, with the condition that they must also accept the responsibility of caring for your pet.

It’s important to select a trustworthy individual who will act in the best interest of your pet and to communicate your expectations clearly.

For added security, setting up a trust for the benefit of the pet guardian can provide more structured support, allowing you to specify care instructions and the use of funds for your pet’s needs. 


3. Establishing a Trust for a Pet Guardian

Establishing a trust for a pet guardian is another way to ensure your pet’s care in the event of your absence.

To set up a trust, you typically need to appoint a trustee and create a document outlining the care instructions for your pet. This document should include details such as the type of food, medical care, and even the pet’s daily routine. It’s also important to allocate sufficient funds to cover the pet’s expenses for the remainder of its life. The trustee will have a legal obligation to follow your instructions and use the funds solely for the pet’s benefit.

It’s advisable to choose someone who is familiar and comfortable with your pet as the guardian. Additionally, having a conversation with the potential guardian about your expectations and their willingness to take on the responsibility is crucial.

For the trust to be effective, it’s recommended to have different individuals serve as the trustee and the pet guardian to avoid conflicts of interest and to ensure that the terms of the trust are enforced.

What happens to my Pets if I pass away with no provisions are made

If no provisions are made in a will for a pet, the outcome can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but generally, pets are considered property and would be included in the residuary estate to be distributed according to the terms set for such property.

Without specific instructions, there’s no guarantee the pet will be cared for as the owner might have wished. It’s recommended to appoint a guardian for the pet and provide for them in the Will, Codicil, by leaving a letter, or through a pet trust to ensure their well-being.

Estate planning for pets is crucial and consulting a lawyer can help ensure that pets are properly included in these plans.

three dogs dressed up for halloween

What Happens to my Pets if I Pass Away - Final Thoughts

Planning for the future care of pets is an important consideration for many pet owners. In the event of an owner’s passing, pets can experience confusion and grief, and their well-being depends on the arrangements made in advance.

It’s common for pet owners to include specific instructions in their will or trust, designating a caregiver who will take responsibility for their pets. This can ensure that pets are provided for and that their needs are met by someone who understands their routines and preferences.

Additionally, setting aside funds for the pet’s care can relieve financial burdens from the designated caregiver.

For those without a specified individual in the will, there are legal programs and charities that can assist in finding new homes for pets. It’s crucial to have these discussions with trusted friends or relatives who may be willing to take on the role of a pet’s caregiver, ensuring that the transition is as smooth as possible for the animal.

Making these decisions can provide peace of mind to pet owners, knowing that their beloved companions will continue to receive love and care even after they’re gone.