Putting a Pet in a Will is a Dangerous Gamble

Hon. Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr.

Topper at the windowWhen people think about estate planning, the first, and sometimes only, thing that comes to mind for most people and their attorneys, is a Will. Animal lovers proudly proclaim, "I took care of my pets—they are in my Will!" The issue comes up when you realize that pets are property. And the law treats them just as they would a couch or painting. Sadly, although an inanimate object can wait for the next owner that is not the case for a living being – such as a dog, cat or bird who must be fed and walked or die.

A Pet in a Will has Drawbacks

Although a Will can specify how property should be distributed, direct who receives the property, and appoint pet guardians, there are drawbacks. If any aspect of the Will is likely to create conflict, dissatisfaction, anger or jealousy, the Will might be contested. Wills can take a long time to probate - and since all Wills are probated the question remains, what happens to the pets?

Elvis in a tuxedoCourts Can, and Often Do Redirect Funds Away from the Pets Designated in Wills and The Court has Authority to Change Instructions

A Will does not avoid probate, move quickly, or keep matters private. After all, a Will is published by the court and is a public document that is in the court records.

Other Drawbacks of a Will

What if the pets need help while the Pet's Owner is still alive but unable to care for his/her pet? A Will takes effect only after the Pet Owner's death. The Pet Protection Agreement® pet trust and free standing pet trusts are enforceable both during the Pet Owner's life (including any period of disability or incapacity) and after the Pet Owner's death.