Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Estate Planning for Horse Owners

For many with pets – dog and cats – consideration of who gets our beloved furry friends has become an important estate planning issue.  Who will care when you’re not there?

It is important to plan for a home and care for these pets.  Selecting a kind and caring individual that you trust is critical to the continued well-being of your dog or cat.  Yet, this is less complex than larger animals – after all, the animal can be taken into a home and cared for becoming part of a new family.  The amount to set aside for food, care and veterinarian fees is fairly modest.

This becomes more complex for horse owners.  While you may love your horse as much as the dog or cat owner loves their animals, it isn’t as easy as taking the animal into another home.  Horses require property and a constant, daily care that is more complex and time consuming than feeding a cat.

Have you planned for a disability?  If you are temporarily disabled and in the hospital, do you have someone who will step in immediately to care for your equine friends?  A well-meaning friend that is not familiar with the care of horses may not understand what is required.  After all, this involves more than putting out a bowl of kibble once a day.

Are there funds available to pay for supplies, food, and vet bills that can immediately be accessed?  Have you appointed an individual to immediately step in and take over this financial component?

Upon your death, how will your horse be cared for?  Have you discussed this issue with the individual(s) that you would select to care for the horse?  Are they willing and able to assume this responsibility?  A large dog may only live for 10 years while a horse may live to 20 or 25 years.

How will the financial responsibility be taken care of?  If you leave a stipend in your Will to the individual, the money may be distributed; however, there will be no continued oversight after your estate is closed.  There will be no legal assurance that the caregiver will actually continue to care for your horse.

You may want to consider having a trust in which the trustee is able to pay for the ongoing costs associated with the upkeep and care of your horse so long as it is cared for.  If the ownership is transferred to yet another individual, the trustee can then continue to make funds available to that new owner.

Who will care when you’re not there?  Responsible loving owners of horses as well as dogs and cats must plan for the care of their beloved friends if they are not available due to disability or death.

Protecting your Pets

Calico kitten on couch

An often overlooked issue when people engage in estate planning is their pets.  While technically they are personal property, most pet owners see their beloved four-legged friends as much more. They are a part of the family. 

There are two times that the care of your pets come into play: upon your incapacity and upon your death.

How should you protect your pets upon your death?  Unfortunately, a provision in a Will may not provide the correct amount of protection for your pet.  You can leave a pet to a person upon your death, and you can provide money for its upkeep and care.  There is no mechanism in a Will or in the probate process to assure that the individual(s) who accepts the pet will actually care for and provide for your animal in the manner you anticipated.  In other words, you could leave your car to a friend but you cannot require that he or she keep it washed and tuned up.


In the probate process, once the estate is closed, all court supervision is ended.  Additionally, Wills are often not probated for weeks or months after an individual has passed away.  An animal cannot wait that long for care.

The better legal provision is a pet trust or a pet provision inside your revocable trust.  A trust is ongoing and can have care provisions that lay out the manner you want your pet to be cared for.  Additionally, a provision can be made for ongoing payments for the care, feeding, maintenance and medical needs of your pet.

Is it necessary to provide financial assistance to the individual who will be caring for your pet?  While perhaps not legally required, it is the appropriate way to provide for your pet.  The individual you select to care for your beloved pet may not expect to be compensated; however, responsible pet ownership involves the expenditure of money for veterinary bills, vaccinations, high quality food. If a friend or family member is willing to give his or her time and love to care for your pet, he or she should not be financially burdened as well.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Puppy in corn stalks

How should you protect your pets during a time of incapacity?  This is the most overlooked issue.  Before an emergency arises, give serious 

Once you have identified the individual(s) and have discussed the issue with them, write out your pet’s care plan.  When are they fed? What are they fed?  When are they exercised?  Where do they sleep?  Who is the vet that cares for them?  What are special medical or behavioral issues?  Is there medication to be given?  These are essential to a smooth transition in the event of your disability.
thought to the most likely individual(s) to care for your four-legged friends.  Next, have a conversation with the individual(s).  Don’t assume anything.  You may believe that your children or neighbors would be happy to take in your pet, however, they may not be in a position to do so.  Try to remember that just because you love your cat or dog, doesn’t mean that others feel the same way.

A pet is similar to a small child in that they are totally dependent upon you for their love and care and they cannot express preferences or concerns.  Be a loving and responsible owner and be prepared.