How Do I Include Pets in My Will?  Lessons from the World’s Wealthiest Animals
4 min read

How Do I Include Pets in My Will? Lessons from the World’s Wealthiest Animals

How do I make sure my pets are in my Will? Learn from the world's wealthiest cat, Tommaso, about how you can ensure that your furry friends are accounted for in your Estate Plan! Scroll down to read the full article.

Share this article:

The world’s wealthiest cat is Tommaso, a black cat who rose from the streets of Rome to become a property owner in Milan, Rome, and Calabria. Tommaso inherited around $13 million after he was adopted by Maria Assunta, the widow of a wealthy Italian builder who left her entire estate to the fortunate feline.  

While we may laugh at Tommaso’s luck, most people consider their pets to be members of their family and want to ensure that they are taken care of even after they die. Celebrities have been doing this for years. Thanks to platforms like FastWill, average Americans can easily provide for their animals by including them in their wills, just like Ernest Hemingway.

Famous Pets and Their Inheritances

Deeding a House to Your Pets Heirs in Perpetuity

Ernest Hemingway is still one of the world’s most-read authors. Hemingway once described himself as “too poor to own a cat,” but once his fortunes changed, he said, “one cat just leads to another.” He found himself with houses full of cats both in Cuba and in Key West. As they continued to populate, Hemingway was generous with his resources, feeding them cases of salmon and even offering them a cocktail of whiskey and milk. When Hemingway died, his will provided for the cats, ensuring that the descendants of his famous polydactyl cats are able to live in his Key West home in perpetuity. 

Fund a Trust for Your Pet

Drew Barrymore’s marriage to comedian Tom Green didn’t last, but her commitment to their dog certainly did. In 2001, Barrymore’s dog Flossie saved the family during a house fire. Flossie “literally banged on the bedroom door” to awaken the couple. In gratitude, Barrymore established a trust for Flossie and funded it with a $1.3 million house. Longtime readers of FastWill know how important it is not to forget funding their trusts.

Leave Money to the Pet and to Charity

British antique dealer Ben Rea once had 15 cats living in his mansion. When Rea passed away, he left his $12.5-million fortune to Blackie, the only surviving cat. Although he gave cash to his plumber, gardener, and mechanic, he snubbed the rest of his family. The rest of his wealth was donated to animal charities. 

Leave Money to the Pets and the Caretaker

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, made sure the couple’s dogs were provided for in her estate plan. She left a $4 million trust for the dogs. She also made it clear that she valued the domestic worker who lovingly cared for them. Roddenberry left $1 million to Reinelda Estupinian so she could continue to care for the dogs, writing in the trust documents that she "did an excellent job of caring for my animals, giving them comparable or better care than that which I gave them during my lifetime."

Creating a Pet Trust 

Although many states consider pets as property and don’t allow them to be beneficiaries, all 50 states now allow for pet trusts. According to the ASPCA, a pet trust is “a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals in the event of a grantor’s disability or death.” 

Pet trusts are similar to trusts in general. They are created by the “grantor” (who might be called a “trustor” or “settlor” in some jurisdictions), and they can take effect during a person’s lifetime or at their death. Typically, a trustee will hold property (cash, for example) “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets. 

Providing for Your Pets in Your Will

Most people can’t afford to leave their pets trust property complete with staff and detailed instructions for keeping up with their lavish lifestyles. But that’s okay - Spot and Fluffy really don’t need millions of dollars to live happily ever after when their owners pass away. If you want to provide for your pets when you die, here are the steps you can take.

Identify a Caretaker  

The most important way you can provide for your pets is to choose a caretaker who is willing and able to take care of your pets after your death. This can be a family member, friend, or a professional pet caretaker. Just be sure to discuss it with them first, so they’re willing to take on the responsibility. Don’t forget to name a backup caretaker just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.

Leave Written Instructions

Leave written instructions in your will about how you want your pet cared for if you pass away. You should include information about their health, preferred foods, exercise, and any special needs your pets may have.

Establish a Trust 

Consider setting up a trust to provide funds for the care of your pets. To do so, you’ll need to name a trustee who is willing to manage the trust funds and ensure that they are used for the proper care of your animals. You can also specify how any remaining funds should be distributed after your pets pass away.

Include a Pet Provision in the Will 

A growing number of states allow for pet provisions in wills, which can provide for the care of your pets and specify how they should be cared for. You can use FastWill to find out whether your state permits a pet clause.

If you provide for your pet in your estate plan, it's important to review and update your pet instructions regularly, just as you would the other provisions in your estate plan. Your situation may change and so might your pets. You should also remember to update your written instructions or letter whenever you think it’s necessary.

Scroll Down
Share this article:
Let’s begin! First, what’s your name?

Your name that’s stated on your driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.