Caring For Your Companion: The Importance of Protecting Your Pet

Picture of ChihuahuaPets receiving an inheritance!  It may sound extreme, but planning for your pet’s future is not about money, it is about security for both of you.  Just as responsible parents plan in advance to appoint a guardian to care for their children, responsible pet owners need to plan in advance for their pets.  If you are a pet owner, you should have two plans in place:

1) If you are unable to properly care for your pet due to an illness or other incapacity
2) If you are unable to properly care for your pet due to your death.

According to ASPCA, approximately 62% of households in the United States have at least one pet.  Yet, only 17% of pet owners have taken legal steps for their pet’s protection.  There are some very easy and cost-effective options which you can take advantage of now.  Don’t delay, your pets are counting on you!

Option 1 (Every pet owner must do this):

Carry a Pet Identification Card with you at all times.  This can either be a physical card that you carry in your wallet or purse, or additional information contained in your I.C.E. (In case of Emergency) contact on your cell phone.  The information on the Pet Identification Card should include:

a) a picture of your pet
b) the pet’s name
c) the location of the pet
d) any special needs of your pet
e) who to contact to take care of the pet.   This card can advise a police officer or other emergency personnel that you have a pet that also needs assistance.

Option 2 (Most pet owners should do this):

Include your pet in your Will.  This is not to suggest that you make your pet a beneficiary of your estate (although some people do this), rather treat your pet as “property” to be specifically gifted to someone at your death.  While you can make provisions for cash to be included with the gift, it is not a requirement.  By including a specific bequest, there is clear guidance to whomever is managing your estate to ensure that your pet is taken care of.

Option 3 (Some pet owners can do this):  

Create a “Pet Trust.” California Probate Code § 15212 governs the creation of pet trusts and provides that you may designate a specified amount of money to care for your pet, appoint a caretaker, and detail the type of care you would like your pet receive upon your incapacity or death.  This requires more advanced planning, but is worth it in many situations.

There are a wide variety of possibilities within each of these three options. However, there remains one constant: your pet cannot speak for itself and needs you to take charge and plan now.  No one wants their pet to end up in a shelter waiting for the “system” to sort through things.

For more information on trusts, wills, probate, and the role of trustees, contact Los Angeles Pet Trust Attorney KC Marie Knox at (818) 501-5800 or email her at



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