Once you die, Max the dog, Lucy the cat, and Sunny the cockatiel may wonder what will happen to them. If you’ve played your estate-planning cards just right, then you would have provided for these furry and feathered non-human members of your family through your will or a pet trust.

Many people assume that they will outlive their pets, but sometimes they don’t. This is why it’s important to provide for them in case you die. You didn’t neglect your children in the will, so why would you neglect your pets? You don’t want them to be homeless, do you?

In a will or pet trust

Some owners provide for their pets in their wills. If you choose this route, make sure that a person will immediately step in to provide for the pet because executing a will can be a long process. Another option is a pet trust that allows people to set aside money to care for the pet and name a person to become the caregiver.

Guidelines when providing for pets

Still, there are a number of formal and “polite” things you will need to do in preparation for your pets’ care after you die. Here are some initial steps to take:

  • Designate a caregiver: Have a frank discussion with the person to determine whether they are willing to take on the new role and whether they have the capability to do so. What if that person has pet-related allergies? Or lives in a home that would not reasonably accommodate a pet? You will have to rethink your choice.
  • Set aside money for the pet’s care: This can be done in your will or a pet trust. You want to make sure that the caregiver has the financial support needed. Tally the annual pet care costs such as food, housing, boarding and veterinary care, medication, grooming and even toys. Then multiple the number by the number of years your pet may expect to live.
  • Provide special instructions such as the pet’s favorite foods, how often they eat, contact information at veterinary clinic, and where the animal is boarded when you’re on vacation.

This may sound cold, but, under the law, pets are considered “tangible personal property”; no different than furniture, computers, cars, collectibles and jewelry. With this legal designation, it’s important that you provide for your pet in your estate plans. You want to ensure that Max, Lucy and Sunny aren’t left homeless.