Is Your Money Going to the Dogs? Leaving Money to Pets is Gaining in Popularity

More and more pet owners are leaving their money to their pets. If you’re wondering if they’re disinheriting family members in the process, for many people their pets ARE their family. Some people don’t have anyone else to leave their hard-earned cash to and would rather Mr. Fuzzybottom receive it than, say, a charity that might not be held accountable for how it’s spent. The thing is, when you leave your money to your pets, someone still has to oversee the inheritance. That individual becomes their pet guardian during the life of the animal. The guardian can be left money and any properties to manage and disperse in the interest of your furbabies.

Going to the Dogs

According to some fairly recent figures, an estimated 1 million dogs in the U.S. have been named as the primary beneficiaries in their owners’ wills. Still considered property in many places, more countries are beginning to recognize them as sentient beings, rather than chattel, which in theory might make leaving your money to them easier to accomplish. So far, Spain, New Zealand, and Quebec, Canada, among many others, have passed laws recognizing them as such, and a bill in Mexico was brought forth in April 2022.

dog on bed
Photo: Pixabay/DavidEnglund

Sentient Beings

So, what qualifies as a sentient being? They are quantified as non-human beings with complex nervous systems who perceive and respond to sensations. They are considered aware and capable of having feelings similar to people. Anyone who’s ever spent any amount of time around animals likely recognizes the fact that they experience fear, joy, anguish during separation, and can go through a period of mourning when they experience loss. This is why it’s been fairly easy to get these reforms pushed through in more than 30 countries.

Not Just a Dog’s Life

Technically, you could leave your money to any animal if you appoint a guardian. It doesn’t just have to be a dog. Obviously, you’ll want to select someone you believe you can trust — and “believe” is the operative word here. Let’s face it: not everyone is going to hold up their part of the bargain once you’re gone. The same holds true for anyone being left in charge of anything in a will. You can try to put some safeguards in place to ensure your wishes are respected, but you’ll have to trust them, too.

pampered cat
Photo: Pixabay/photosforyou

Pet Clauses in Wills

Per information obtained from, because pets are viewed as property under the law, they’re a part of your estate. Due to this, you can leave them as a gift to someone, just like you would with any of your stuff. You’ll have to list the individual as a beneficiary in your will and name your pet or pets as their inheritance. You’ll want to be more specific than just writing “my dog goes to my brother.” Rather, it’s suggested that you write your dog’s name and breed and include your brother’s full legal name to avoid confusion. Using an attorney would be your best bet if you’re worried.

Pet Trust

The safest route would be to create a pet trust. This is where you’d set aside money for your pet’s or pets’ care with a legally binding obligation outlining that the funds are to be used only for the benefit of the animals. If that’s the case, locate an estate planning attorney to establish the trust. You won’t be the first or last to do so.

People, Pets & Planet

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