What happens to your dogs if you die?

This week saw the end of the second Elizabethan age. It was another day that we were all witnesses to history. In addition to all the news reporting about the passing of an era, within hours were posts about the Queen’s dogs and their future. Everybody seemed to be asking “What happens to the dogs?” It’s a good question. What happens to your dogs if you die?

We realize that our news feeds are all heavily skewed to dog-related subjects. And we’re truly not concerned about the four dogs Queen Elizabeth leaves behind. She certainly had the resources to provide for their futures.

But what about your dogs? What happens to your dogs if you die? Have you made plans for them?

Over the past couple of years we’ve seen lots of posts looking to rehome dogs whose owners died. Their families either didn’t want, or couldn’t take, the dogs. Sadly, there are few options available for adult dogs. 

Estate planning for dogs

Picture of a Pug dog looking around the back of a chair to illustrate what happens to the dogs if you die

One of the best-attended seminars our dog obedience club hosted was on the topic of estate planning for dogs. Everyone wants to make sure that their pets will be taken care of. The legal status of pets depends on which state you live in. However, most states regard dogs as property, with few or no actual rights or legal protections.

According to our understanding, that’s actually a good thing in some ways. It means that you are the final arbiter of all things relating to your dog. You get to decide everything relating to his/her welfare. It also means that, if you’re not around any more, whoever is in charge of your estate can dispose of your property at their discretion. Unless you make specific provisions otherwise.

Dogs can’t inherit

Because of their status as property, according to the attorney, you can’t actually leave anything to your dog. Dogs can’t own anything. All their gear belongs to you. You can, however, designate someone as their caretaker and leave that person funds earmarked for the dogs’ needs. 

How that’s constructed will depend on your location and the laws that pertain where you are. It’s a good idea to contact an attorney where you are who specializes in estate planning, and knows about the particulars regarding pets.  

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