Estate Planning For Your Pets? Our Bethesda Lawyers Can Help Part 1

As an American citizen, you’ve probably heard a lot about the value of planning ahead; not just for your retirement, but for taking care of your loved ones once you are gone. The best approach to ensure stability and financial security involves the complex field of estate law. We know you want the very best for your family members, but what about the furry companions in your life? JDKatz is your team of trusted estate planning attorneys in Bethesda, delivering comprehensive care that is personalized to your needs. We specialize in a wide range of legal services, ranging from tax advice to business structuring, criminal litigation, and more.

One area of estate planning that is still relatively new in this country concerns how to take care of your pets once you pass away. These domesticated creatures may not hold much value in terms of trusts and estates, but to their owners, they are more like children than anything else. Today, we’ll highlight the challenges and benefits of planning for your pet, as well as the advantage of using a legal expert to assist you. Be sure to reach out to our estate lawyers in Maryland today if you need help creating long-term care for your companion.

Property Considerations

To begin, it’s important to state that pets, from the State’s point of view, are property. While this does offer a few advantages in the long run, it also introduces a unique combination of challenges for pet owners. One distinction that separates popular belief from law is that your pets cannot receive an inheritance. We’ve all laughed at the tale of the lady who left her billions to Fluffy, but in reality, your pet is at risk for not being taken care of at all once you pass on. In many cases, family members will promise to care for your furry friend, but situations change. If you’re worried about the care of your pet, it’s essential to find an approach to best ensure their future.

Approaches for Pet Care

In the complex legal world of estate law, it can be a challenge determining the best approach to ensure comprehensive coverage for all of your loved ones when you die. When it comes to your pet, this process can be even more challenging. Read on to learn about the three options you have in planning your pet’s care.


Your first thought probably centered around building your wishes into your Last Will and Testament. Wills are the building blocks of most estate plans, determining how to manage your estate after your death. Unfortunately, beyond designating who will care for your pet, not much else can be done. A few challenges of estate planning for your pet with a will include:

  • Time lapses. Once you pass away, remember that it will take a while for your will to be verified. A certain waiting period will elapse before your will’s reading, and even then, it will need to be reviewed by the Court before any action is taken. If a challenge is levied, even more time will elapse before your pet can be properly cared for.
  • Care instructions cannot be enforced. Your pet, from a legal standpoint, is property. Instructions for your pet can be included, but in no legal sense to they need to be upheld. This would be similar to inheriting a house. You now own the property, but you are not expected to adhere to any instructions. Additionally, beneficiaries will be able to distribute their new property as they please.

  • Wills do not cover potential incapacitation. You can explain your wishes in the event that you are medically incapacitated with an advance directive because your will does not cover living circumstances. Similarly, no commands can be included on how to care for your pet if you are unable to do so.
  • Wills do not cover financial disbursements. A big part of your pet’s care may depend on your disbursements for their care. Unfortunately, wills do not allow for this transaction over time.
  • Your will is subject to the court’s decision. One big concern over your pet’s care arrives when your will is in probate. Despite your best efforts, a judge may ultimately be deciding your furry family member’s fate.

While we have spent a lot of time highlighting the downfalls of relying on your will to look after your pets, it’s important to remember that this document is still very necessary. Any instructions you leave in your will can be supplemented by other legal protections to ensure better coverage for your pet.

Next time, we’ll further cover these additional provisions to help deliver a better picture for how you should plan for your pet’s future in the event that you pass away. One important step in ensuring your success is to reach out to an industry professional. At JDKatz, our team of estate lawyers in Maryland and D.C. is supported by a knowledgeable core of experts who work to provide the best outcome for your needs. Contact us today to learn more!