Warning : Your Family Has No Legal Duty to Continue to Care for Your Pets After You Are Gone

I was recently speaking with an elderly couple from Murfreesboro. This couple had been life-long residents of Tennessee and had very specific concerns for their family. They told me that they had three children who were grown and living in different states. However, as they went into retirement, this couple had grown attached to their pets over the years. Specifically, this couple had 3 dogs, all Black Labs. Jokingly, this couple even said that their pets are just as important as their children.

As I continued to speak with this family, they had concerns about their three dogs. Specifically, they had questions on who would care for their dogs should they be required to go into a nursing home, and more importantly, who would care for their dogs should they pass away. I explained to this couple that should they go into a nursing home or pass away, their family members were under no obligation to take their pets into their home and continue to provide care for these pets. I continued to discuss with this couple that their three adult children, as the executors of their last will and testament, could donate the dogs to an animal shelter. I said, that although we of course would love to assume that our family would take our pets into their home after our deaths, there is no obligation under the way your will is currently written to make this a requirement of your executors.

For this reasons, I explained, that a lot of my clients find pet trusts to be very advantageous to accomplishing their goals. I explained that we could design a revocable living trust that would state that your pets would continue to be provided for in the event of your death, or even in the event that you go into a nursing home. I discussed with them that this is how these trusts work:

  1. You Will Be The Initial Trustee of Your Trust. This Means That You Will Continue to Provide Care for Your Three Dogs and Nothing Will Change.


  1. You Will Name a Successor Trustee of Your Choosing, Perhaps All Three or One of Your Adult Children. As The Successor Trustee, He or She Will Take Possession and Provide Care to Your Three Dogs in the Event of Your Deaths, in the Event You Both Go Into a Nursing Home, or Even in the Event That You Can No Longer Physically Care for the Dogs Any Longer.


  1. The Trust Also Provides that a Certain Amount of Assets Will Be Set Aside for the Care of the Animals and for Compensation to the Caretaker of the Animals. Therefore, the Successor Trustee Will be Able to Continue to Provide Care for Your Dogs, as well as Financially Compensate the Successor Trustee That Will Be Taking Care of Your Dogs.


  1. At the Death of the Last Pet, The Trust Will Terminate and Any Remaining Assets Will Be Distributed To Your Remaining Heirs or in a Way That You Decide and Customized Within Your Pet Trust.


This couple was extremely excited to learn that there was an extremely easy way for them to plan for the continued care of their three dogs in the event of their death or incapacity.

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