Fact checked

This content has been reviewed by Canadian estate planning experts or legal professionals. Our editorial team is committed to ensuring the accuracy and currency of content related to estate planning, online wills, probate, powers of attorney, guardianship, and other related topics. Our goal is to provide reliable, up-to-date information to assist you in understanding these complex topics.

How to Plan for Your Pets in Your Will

In this article:

    You might already know that when your family grows, whether by marriage or the birth of a child, you need to make a will (or update it if you already have one). But what about when you welcome a furry member into the family? You may be surprised to hear that this too means you should make or update your will. Only 6% of Canadian pet owners have included their pet in their will by outlining a pet guardian and 44% have never even thought about making a plan for their pet in case they pass away. Unfortunately, this is one of the top reasons pets end up in shelters – pet owners pass away, and there’s no one to care for the animal. If you have a pet, here’s what you need to do to make sure they’re cared for if something happens to you. 

    Willful Choosing a Pet Guardian

    Make A Will

    While 24% of Canadian pet owners have some sort of informal plan in place for their pet if they were to become incapacitated or pass away, writing that plan into your will is the best way to ensure your pet will be cared for even after you’re gone. You might assume that a friend or family member would step up to care for your pet, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. Including your pet in your will adds an extra layer of security for your plan and provides you with peace of mind knowing they’ll be cared for if something happens to you.

    A dog posing with a laptop with Willful website on the screen


    Choose A Pet Guardian

    You may already know that if you have children, you need to choose a guardian to care for them. The same thing goes for pets - choose someone you trust and are confident will take good care of your pet to be their guardian (note that pets are not considered dependents, rather they are considered property, so the rules for guardians of children do not apply to pet guardians). The next step is discussing it with them to find out if it’s a role they’re willing and able to take on. You’ll need to chat about the type of care you’d want your pet to receive, daily routines, temperament, and any other relevant information that they’d need to know. You may want to write out a pet care plan with details on feeding, care, exercise and lifestyle and store it with your will so your executor can easily pass it on to your guardian. 

    Allocate Resources In A Pet Trust

    Just like you would leave money to any children or beneficiaries in your will, you should leave money for your pet guardian to cover the cost of caring for your pet. This is especially important if:

    • Your pet has health problems
    • Their breed is prone to health complications 
    • Their care is expensive (for example, horses) 

    Leaving money to your pet’s guardian n a pet trust is an important precaution that helps ensure your pet will be well cared for. It also prevents the guardian from having to face unexpected costs. You should also consider leaving enough money to cover food and daily expenses along with an amount to cover the average cost of vet bills and medical treatment during the pet’s lifetime.  

    Our pet trust calculator can help you decide how much you want to leave in a pet trust:


    Update Your Will

    Life is constantly changing - we have children, get married or divorced, and get more pets. Whenever big changes happen, you need to update your will and any associated plans so they’re as up-to-date as possible. It’s good practice to review your will every year to make sure your pet(s) are current, your pet guardian is still willing and able to take on the role, and to review other important components unrelated to your pet. Life is unpredictable and our pets deserve to have a strong, well thought out plan in place to make sure they’re cared for even after we’re gone. 


    Willful vs. using a lawyer

    See how much you can save by choosing Willful

    What province do you live in?
    1/3
    Next
    Next

    Willful vs. using a lawyer

    Do you want to create a will or a will and power of attorney documents?
    Do you want to create a will or a notarial will?
    2/3
    Will only

    Will and Powers of Attorney

    Notarial will

    Next

    Willful vs. using a lawyer

    Besides yourself, how many additional family members need to create their will?
    3/3

    Willful vs. using a lawyer

    What Is A Pet Guardian In A Will?
    Being Named As A Guardian In A Will: What You Need To Know
    Guide to Wills and Estate Planning For New Parents

    Get peace of mind for you and your family by
    creating your will today.