The information provided refers primarily to New York laws and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. Do not rely or act upon any information below without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.
It is important for people to make provisions in a will and/or trust for the care of their animals. Every state has have enacted laws which specifically permit trusts for the care of animals. See NY Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, section 7-8.1. An attorney should be consulted to draft these provisions. It is important to speak with the person to whom the animal will be bequeathed and trustee to make sure that they are willing to undertake this responsibility. Alternate individuals should also be named in the event the first named person dies or is unable to carry out his/her responsibilities.
Alternatively, individuals can leave a bequest to a charitable organization for the care of their pets. Some humane organizations have specific programs to care for companion animals whose “parents” have died. A minimum bequest may be required. In order to make an informed decision about what is best for their animal, it is important for people to visit the facilities and to ascertain if their animal will be placed for adoption or kept by the organization for the animal’s life.
Will/trust provisions directing the euthanasia of an animal upon the death of the animal’s “parents” have not been upheld by some courts as being against public policy. One such case is In re Capers’ Estate, 34 Pa. D. & C.2d 121 (Pa. Orph. Ct. 1964).
There is a transitional period between the time a person dies and a will is probated so that period should also be considered in estate planning. In addition to providing for their companion animals in a will or trust, people should keep pet care instructions in their wallets and leave pet care instructions in a prominent place in their homes in the event of an emergency.
The New York City Bar Association published a detailed pamphlet on this issue: www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/8_20072453-ProvidingforYourPetintheEventofDeathHospitalization.pdf.