Options For Pets After Your Death: What would happen to your pets if they outlive you?

Simpson Law, PA.

Thanks for the fast turnaround; our very nice trip to Russia was made better knowing all this was taken care of with your professional expertise…we will keep you in mind in the future…and when we know someone else is looking for estate planning help.

--Steve, Silver Spring, Maryland

Thanks so much for everything…I gave your business card to 3 co-workers… I gave you the highest recommendation!

--Elizabeth, Fairfax, Virginia

Thanks again for your help and patience while we dragged our feet.

--Debbie,Potomac, Maryland

Getting a will written, designating a power of attorney - these are all tasks that I knew must be done - but I had been putting them on the back burner. Suzanne made the process simple, quick and painless. Everything was done professionally and in a timely manner. It brings me peace of mind to know that all this is taken care of!

--Nancy, President and Founder, Moms, Inc.

Thanks again for being so thorough…stay in touch.

--Donna, Reston, Virginia

I really appreciated all you did to make this so simple and speedy. You have done a great job incorporating all our various issues. I hope to have opportunities to send other clients your way.

--Caitlin, Laurel, Maryland

Suzanne handled the preparation and filing of all the estate documents for me, my husband, and our daughter. This included our wills, general powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, and others. Her explanations were always clear and thorough. Suzanne also found a possible problem in the wording on the deed to our house--- and recommended a simple solution. We are so happy to now have everything in good order. Working with Suzanne was a personal and professional pleasure!


Thanks for letting us bring the children!

--Jennifer, Boyds, Maryland

Thanks for making it so easy and coming to our house both times!

--Don, Olney, Maryland

Suzanne is honest and knowledgeable about estate law. She will guide you to what best fits your needs and your financial situation. She is also very family oriented and that means a lot to me.

-- Linda

Thanks a lot for your help!

--Jan, Fairfax, Virginia

Thanks for everything!

--Cindy, Olney, Maryland

I am a lawyer as well, but my family went to Suzanne several years ago to prepare our wills and related estate documents, and we were extremely pleased with her services. From my professional perspective, she is very intelligent and stays up-to-date on the current laws, and on a more personal note, she is a very warm and caring person.


I’m telling my friends about you!

--Suzanne, Olney, Maryland

Thanks for making it easy!

--Paula, Rockville, Maryland

We worked with Suzanne to develop an advanced directive and will. It was a pleasure working with her -- she was helpful, very well-informed, thoughtful, and understanding of our needs. She was able to lead us through the process with clear instructions and had obviously done her homework before we arrived so that the process was efficient, with minimal back and forth. She has developed a very specific approach to writing advanced directives that reduces ambiguity and provides tremendous reassurance that our wishes will be fulfilled. She dispelled some misconceptions we had about wills and trusts in a respectful, courteous and patient manner, without ever making us feel awkward or uncomfortable. We absolutely trust her judgment and her recommendations which are provided with a commendable balance of professionalism and warmth.


I've been a client of Suzanne's for almost a decade and, with flexibility and compassion, she has worked with me to adapt my plan to meet my expectations. I trust her advice and highly recommend her services.


I had a unique opportunity to observe Suzanne's interactions with a diverse group of colleagues over a year of her participation in Leadership Montgomery and based on that I choose her to prepare my estate plan and to advise me about the process. She is a good listener who is well-respected by her peers for her thoughtful insights and assessments. I decided to retain her to prepare my own estate plan and felt she handled my case with competence and integrity, making the process very comfortable and easy for me.


Suzanne prepared our wills and other estate documents after our child was born. She helped us think through the consequences of the decisions we made, including making sure we had contacted our choices for guardians. We really appreciated her flat-fee based billing too. We knew exactly how much to budget for her service. As a great bonus, with her quarterly newsletter, we get regular updates on relevant legal issues. We have recommended Suzanne many times in the past and will continue to do so. She's a great go-to person.


Suzanne Simpson is the best lawyer I have ever met. She helped me in a most difficult probate case made extremely complex by incompetence of involved parties. She handled the case with efficiency, integrity, know-how and compassion making the best out of a very complicated situation. Due to her knowledge and efficiency my case was resolved in a positive manner. I have not enough words in my vocabulary to express my trust and respect for her ability to successfully finalize a case which other lawyers had deemed to difficult to handle. Kudos for Suzanne Simpson, Esq.!!


Ms. Simpson was our attorney helping us form a will and all the related documents that are important when you have a child -- and even when you don't. What can I say? She has it in all areas. First and foremost, she is an honest person and I always feel she is focused on giving us the best advice. She is highly knowledgeable and continues to go to seminars and keep up with the latest changes in the law -- of which there are many! Her service is impeccable: prompt, calling back ASAP, polite. And in all the while I have known her, she has never made any reference to any client. So I know my own info will be kept private. And her compassion is true, something you need and want when dealing with life and death issues.


Suzanne was easy to work with and very knowledgeable. She explained advantages and disadvantages of optional language and was very helpful in developing our wills, health directives and powers of attorney.

--Wills client

My husband and I were referred by our financial advisor to Simpson Law and from the first phone call to Suzanne Simpson we were handled in a professional manner-she clearly explained all of our options, the laws involved, we made our decisions and within the time frame that we requested. High Marks---we plan on recommending Simpson Law to all of our business partners, family and friends as well.

--Mary Joe

She does what it takes to get the job done. Suzanne is caring and compassionate which is helpful during the estate planning process which can be very emotional in some cases. She is a pleasure to work with and her fees are very reasonable, unlike many other attorneys.


Read more testimonials

You're an animal lover. You have one or more beloved pets. You give them the best care you can and you know your animals are happy. But do you have a plan for what would happen to your pets if they should outlive you?

The majority of pet owners never plan for this. It's not generally a topic that is discussed with any frequency or urgency in spite of the fact that over 100,000 animals1 are sent to shelters each year in the United States after their owners have passed on and not left a plan in place to care for their pets. These poor animals then contribute to the overburdened animal shelter system, where they risk being put down if the shelter cannot find a home for them or they live out the rest of their lives in the shelter because they may be too old for adopters to be interested.

So what are your options for providing care to your animals after your death?

Create a Trust

You can now create a trust for your pets. Maryland enacted a pet trust law on October 1, 2009 which allows owners to create a trust in order to provide care to an animal or animals alive during the owner's lifetime and which outlive the owner. There are two types of trusts that specifically deal with pets: an inter vivos trust (also known as a living trust) and a testamentary trust2. An inter vivos trust is one that is established during your lifetime and may be used to provide care to pets during any periods of incapacity or immediately upon your death. The funds are administered separately from your retained assets and tax returns may be required. A testamentary trust is effective only after your death and there may be an interval after your passing before the funds can be used. Funds are also transferred to the trust only after your death; no funds may be transferred beforehand.

When creating a trust, you would need to name a trustee to manage the trust and also a caregiver or multiple caregivers for your pet in the event of your death. You will need to decide how the trust funds would be spent and describe what the caregiver's obligations would be, which could even include your pet's preferences and likes or dislikes.

You would also need to determine not only how to fund the trust, but how much would be required. If your pet is ten years old at the time of your death, they could in theory live another ten years if cared for well. How much money would be needed to provide for your pet for that long? Would the caregiver be paid for taking care of the animal(s)? You would need to calculate out estimates for food, veterinary care, boarding or pet sitting if the caregiver goes on vacation or is ill, toys or items to keep your pet happy and entertained, etc.

Include Pets in Your Estate Plans

Another way to establish care during periods of incapacity or in the event of your death is to specifically include your pets in your estate planning. Powers of attorney may be used to authorize an appointed caregiver to care for your pets if you are unable to do so. You can have your estate plans authorize an executor to spend money from your estate to care for your pets or companion animals in the short-term or to find them a new home if you don't want them to go to any family or friends, or if you have no one who would be able or willing to provide care for your pets. You can select and establish emergency caregivers (usually trusted and responsible friends or family) who can care for or collect your pets during an emergency, such as an extended hospital visit. However, these measures are intended for short-term care. They do not necessarily take into account long-term care. For that, you would need to consider including decisions regarding your pets in your Last Will and Testament or consider establishing a trust.

To determine what the best options are for your particular situation, or to find out more about the options described above, it's best to talk to an estate planning lawyer.

1 "Backup Plan." All Animals Magazine. July/August 2013. Accessed at http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/2013/07-08/backup-plan-planning-for-pets-after-owner-death.html.

2 "Pet Trusts." Washington Animal Rescue League. http://www.warl.org/images/uploads/Pet_Trusts_Fact_Sheet.pdf.