Frequently Asked Questions
1. What happens to my pet when I die?
Pet owners have several options available to them to ensure the care of their animals in the event of death or hospitalization. For more information about making provisions for the continued care of your animal companion, read Providing for your Pets.
2. What is a pet trust?
A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of pets in the event of a grantor’s disability and/or death. The grantor is the person who creates the trust, which may take effect during his or her life or at death. For more information on pet trusts, see the Pet Trust Primer article.
3. What are the Pet Trust Laws in my state?
For the pet trust laws in your state, see our State Laws Chart.
4. What information should I provide the designated guardian and/or caretaker of my pet?
It is important that designated guardians and/or caretakers know the following information about your pet:
- Your pet’s habits (eating, sleeping, exercising)
- Your pet’s personality (ok around other animals?, good with children?, etc.)
- Your pet’s veterinarian and any relevant medical history
5. Can I put my pet in my will?
Yes, you can put your pet in your will. However, you can not name your pet as a beneficiary, because animals are legally defined as property. You can, however, create provisions in your will for your pet’s care. For more information, please read Providing for Your Pets.
6. Are there precautions I can take regarding my pet in the event of an emergency?
It is important for pet owners to have instructions for the care of their pets readily available in the event of an emergency. Pet owners should carry a copy of instructions in their purse or wallet with information on who should be called in the case of emergency, how they can be contacted and what arrangements should be made.
7. As a multiple pet owner, can my pets stay together in the event of my hospitalization or death?
Realistically, if you are an owner of more than two pets, it will likely be a burden on one caretaker to care for all your animals. It is therefore extremely important for you to find options for all your animals.
8. Is there a limit to the amount of money I can leave my pets?
Although there is no set limit as to the amount of money an individual can leave his or her pet, it is recommended that owners leave a reasonable amount of money so your request is not challenged by family members or invalidated by the court.
9. Are there pet retirement homes?
Yes. There are several sponsored by schools for veterinary medicine. Purdue University, University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University’s Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center just to name a few. There are others that are privately operated. As a pet guardian you must make a decision as to which situation works best for you. Do your homework and thoroughly investigate the possibilities and especially the organization you ultimately select.
10. Is it possible to create a pet trust even if my state does not have a pet trust law?
As long as you establish some connection with a state that has a pet trust law in your trust. For example:
- the trustee may live in a state with a pet trust law;
- the caretaker whom you have named in your trust may live there;
- the retirement home that you have chosen for your pet is located in that state; or
- you may own property in that state.
11. Where can I get more information on pet trusts?
ASPCA experts recommend the following books:
- When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die by David Congalton & Charlotte Alexander
- All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet by Peggy R. Hoyt
- Petriarch: The Complete Guide to Financial and Legal Planning for a Pet's Continued Care by Rachel Hirschfeld
The ASPCA Legal Department provides counsel to the ASPCA and its staff. Although we cannot provide legal advice to, or act as an attorney for, outside organizations or individuals, one of our goals is to provide the public with information and resources that may be helpful in resolving problems. None of the information on the ASPCA's website should be construed as providing legal advice. If you have a specific question, please check our Frequently Asked Questions page.