Having a plan for your pet's future after you are gone can prevent them from ending up in a shelter

By Kelli Bender
Updated December 15, 2016 02:44 PM

You’ve heard the tabloid news stories; late millionaires whose wills advise that all their worldly possessions be left to their pet. To some it may seem ridiculous, to others sensible. Regardless, the take away is the same: You can leave behind money, protection and personal possessions for your pets. What many don’t know is, you don’t have to be filthy rich to do it.

In fact, setting aside a little money and creating a plan for a beloved pet can help prevent them from being surrendered when you become too old or ill to care for them yourself any longer.

Reuters talked to attorney Rachel Hirschfeld, who created a pet protection agreement which you can download on Legal Zoom, detailing the reasonable steps you can take to help protect your furry friend’s future.

Hirschfeld advises, at minimum, including a line in your will about what you want to leave your pet, who should be responsible for their care and some notes on what your pet eats, who their vet is and their medical history. All of this prevents your pet from being surrendered to a shelter. If an animal is found with a deceased owner, and there is no family or instruction of what do next, the pet is considered abandoned and taken to a city shelter.

For those who want to do a little more for their pet, Hirschfeld says it’s best to visit an attorney to get information on how to leave funds behind.

“You go to an attorney and pay the price. Some people do it for $750. I’ve heard of more than $2,500,” she told Reuters. “Choose wisely. It’s not the cost that makes a good agreement; it’s the talent. I caution people to only go to a lawyer who has done them successfully. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can get sued.”

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If you do choose to leave your pet part of your wealth, make sure the figure is in percentiles not dollars.

“Because if you say you are leaving $1,000.00, and there’s $1000.01 in the account (or less than the exact amount), you could have problems because then a court would have to decide what to do about the excess (or deficit). The goal is to keep it out of court,” the attorney said.

Thinking about planning for your pet’s future? A great place to start is with the Pet Protection document on Legal Zoom and on the ASPCA’s pet planning website.