DEAR PAW’S CORNER: Is it possible to include a pet in your will? I saw all the controversy about Leona Helmsley’s dog inheriting her money on TV. I’m not rich at all, but I do want my two Chihuahuas and my parakeet “Bobby” to be well cared for if I should pass before them. — Beryl, Ormond Beach, FL
DEAR BERYL: It is possible and, in fact, recommended. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association estimates that 69% of American households own at least one pet. Of the 2.4 million Americans who die each year, statistically, many of those who pass away are pet owners.
Even if we aren’t wealthy, we still leave stuff behind when we die, including (and especially) pets. Adding a pet to your will is important – it’s less about leaving the pet your money as it is about making sure a pet will be cared for after you’re gone.
The online estate-planning service ItsMyLife.com recommends that pets be protected in writing, as part of your will. Verbal agreements can easily be forgotten.
The company is offering its “Pets Letter of Wishes” for free through Valentine’s Day, and its other estate-planning documents are available at a reasonable price.
You don’t have to go through a service – you can add a provision for your pet in your existing will, or create a will, simply by writing out your wishes on paper and having a witness agree to and sign it. But I recommend an attorney look over any will, regardless of how or where it was made, to make sure it can be carried out with few problems.