Older Americans may decide to adopt a pet to keep them company after their children have grown up or their spouses have died. Pets are particularly well suited for the elderly, as their presence can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, increase physical activity, and reduce depression and loneliness. However, in such a situation, it is not unlikely that the pet will actually outlive its owner. If you don’t want your beloved furry friend to be put into a shelter after your death or be forgotten, plan ahead to take care of the animal.

Leave Instructions for Immediately After Death

In the initial shock following your death, your family or friends may not think about your pet. When you give copies of your will and your funeral plans to your family, make sure you also include instructions on your animal’s care. This can be a simple one-page document outlining the daily to-do list to care for your pet. By including this document with the others in your family’s possession, you’ll ensure that they’ll remember your pet even if you’re not around to remind them.

Should I Discuss My Pet in my Will?

Though an attorney can best advise you as to what documents will best fit your estate planning needs, a will may not be the best way to arrange care for a pet. A will only takes effect following your death and may not actually be recognized by a court for many days or weeks after that time.

Why a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement which holds property “in trust” for the benefit of another. Usually, these trusts are for the benefit of a person, but trusts can also be used for the care of a pet. The grantor – the person who creates the trust – will choose a “trustee” to ensure that the terms of the trust are carried out. The trustee can be the person who actually physically cares for the pet or may be a separate person who has more of an administrative role.

You can set up your trust to become effective not just after your death, but at the time of your incapacitation or illness. The property in the trust can also immediately be used for the care of your pet and does not have to go through the often long process of probate like property granted through a will. In the state of Washington, a pet trust terminates when the trust no longer covers any living animal.

Contact an Experienced Trust Administration Attorney

If you have any questions about how pet trusts are set up in Washington state, contact or call (425) 227-8700 to reach attorney Dan Kellogg for a consultation.