What Happens to Your Dog if You Die?

Consider your pet in your estate planning.

Consider your pet in your estate planning.

Ever wonder what would happen to your little ‘Yapper’ if you died prematurely or unexpectedly? With the recent passing of the Minnesota legislation (H.F. 1372), pet owners in all 50 states can now create living trusts to pay for the care and maintenance of pets that survive them. As with regular trusts, pet trusts provide a legally sanctioned arrangement where any money or property set aside in the trust of for a pet will be 100% dedicated to that animal’s care. One might recall a few years back when the infamous billionaire, real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley, left a $12 million dollar trust to her little Maltese, Trouble.


What is a Trust?

A living trust is a legal document created by you (the grantor) during your lifetime. Just like a will, a living trust spells out exactly what your desires are with regard to your assets, your dependents, and your heirs. The big difference between a will and trust is that a will becomes effective only after you die and your will has been entered into probate. A living trust bypasses the costly and time-consuming process of probate, enabling your successor trustee (who fills basically the same role as an executor of a will) to carry out your instructions as documented in your living trust at your death, and also if you’re unable to manage your financial, healthcare, and legal affairs due to incapacity. After the pet dies, the remaining funds are distributed to among other heirs or as directed by the trust or the courts.

Conditions of the Trust

The pet must have been alive during the grantor’s life-time for the pet to benefit. Also, the trust must be enforced by a person specified in the trust for the terms or by a court appointee.

Many Americans and other countries around the world are now considering their pets as part of the family. Personally for me, as a single woman who has no human successors; the benefits of creating a trust for my little Terrier, Bella are numerous! The main benefit however is that it provides me with peace of mind of what would happen to Bella if I were to become incapacitated or died unexpectedly.

I know this is something that we don’t like to think about but when considering your estate planning don’t forget about your little furry friends. Don’t leave their welfare up to chance in case tragedy should occur.


  1. Pets always suffer most when you are nt around. They do not have any way of communicating their needs and also their pain. I have been scared of this when I leave my dogs at home while I travel.

    1. Hi Menaka, Thx for the comment. I feel the same way.

  2. Pingback: Presidential Candidates and Dog Legislation – Yap Talk ()

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