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Can Your Cat Inherit Your House?

Posted on April 23, 2014

We love our furry friends: we cuddle them, walk them, feed them, sometimes even dress them.

They’re like family – in fact, 63.2 percent of people with pets do consider them to be members of the family. So when it comes time for end-of-of life planning, some people wonder if they can choose their pets as their beneficiaries.

The answer, alas, is no.

Young woman holding a white fluffy cat This largely comes down to a legal distinction: however warmly we feel toward our pets, legally they’re considered property, not individuals, and so they can’t inherit. More logistically, of course, pets wouldn’t be able to take the first steps in managing an inheritance: internet videos to the contrary, they can’t drive to the bank or mow the lawn, after all.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t look out for your animal friends in other ways. One option is to select someone you trust to inherit your pet, and add this clause to your will. You’ll want to discuss this with the person first, of course, and make sure that they’re ready and willing to take on the responsibility. You can then leave that person financial assets to cover the care you hope they’ll give your pet after you’re gone.

Another option is to create a pet trust, an approach legally recognized in 40 states, including Colorado. The pet trust will need a trustee to administer the financial side, and you may also want to assign a custodian to advocate for your pet. There are other complications to consider – such as micro-chipping or tattooing your pet to make sure they can be identified.

As with all estate-related planning, experts recommend working with an experienced attorney if you decide to pursue a pet trust, as with your will. You worked hard all your life to build your financial assets, and they should be disbursed as you wish after you’re gone.

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