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When family pets should be included in an estate plan

Any Maryland resident can benefit from an estate plan, regardless of income level. In fact, an individual can seek assistance in order to draft an estate plan that is uniquely suited to his or her needs. Estate planning, often involving a last will and testament, will determine what happens to property and possessions after a person passes away, including the family pet. When a pet is an integral part of the family, it may be worthwhile to consider this option. 

After the death of a loved one, the will determines how property is divided and distributed, as well as containing instructions regarding important things. What some Maryland residents may not realize is that this can also include instructions for the pet. A pet guardian may be named, and a plan for care could include what to do if the animal becomes terminally ill.

In case a designated guardian does not wish to keep the pets of a deceased family member, an estate plan should also include alternative instructions. If appropriate to the circumstances, shelters and animal sanctuaries should be clearly listed. This can provide peace of mind to the pet owner, as well as release family members from an unwanted responsibility during a difficult time. 

An individual has the right to draft an estate plan suited to his or her unique needs.  It is typically beneficial to work with an estate planning attorney who understands the importance of a family pet. When it is time to consider these issues, it is best to begin with a consultation in order to discuss the details that are meaningful to the individual. 

Source:, "Estate Planning Should Include Provisions For Pets", Erica Curless, Jan. 12, 2015

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