May 27, 2017

What Happens to Your Dog When You Die?

Taking Care of Beloved Animals in the Event of Your Death

Whether you are single or married, have children or not, your pets are usually a part of your family. Just as you would with children, you want to make certain your four-legged family members are taken care of in the event of your death. To that end, it’s not unusual to provide for your pets in your estate plan.

Under Pennsylvania law, there is nothing to prohibit you from including provisions in a will or trust that address the care, custody and treatment of your animals after death. Though animals cannot own property in Pennsylvania, so you can’t make a bequest or gift to your pet, you can create a trust to benefit your pet. With a trust, you create a separate legal entity, transfer assets (usually money) into the trust, and provide instructions to a “trustee” to use the funds to take care of your pet.

There are some specific requirements in Pennsylvania for a “pet trust” to be valid:

  • The pet must be alive during your life—you cannot create a trust for future puppies
  • The trust must end with the death of the animal(s) named. If multiple pets are recipients of trust funds, the trust will terminate upon the death of the last remaining named pet.
  • Any property in the trust must be used for the care of the named pets, unless the amount in the trust is more than is necessary to provide the designated level of care. If so, any excess must go to the person creating the trust (if alive), or to that person’s beneficiaries

It’s not necessary to create a trust specifically for a pet, though. You can name family members as beneficiaries of a trust, but specify in the trust document that some portion of the distribution is to be used to care for your pet.

Another option is to find an organization that will take care of your pet. There are a number of organizations that will typically foster your animal in exchange for a specific bequest in your will or trust. These groups customarily care for your animal until a suitable home is found.

Contact the Law Office of Halligan & Keaton

At Halligan & Keaton, we offer more than 60 years of combined legal experience to people throughout in and around Media, Pennsylvania. To set up a free initial consultation to discuss your estate planning needs, call our office at
or send us an e-mail. We will travel to your home, a long-term care facility or the hospital to meet with you.