Clients often ask about how to best ensure their pets are cared for in their estate plans. It’s a topic this blog has covered before, from the care of commercial animals after the owner’s death, to the pitfalls in drafting clauses for the benefit of pets, to the curious case of socialite Leona Helmsley, who famously left $12 million to her dog, a bequest that was successfully challenged by her surviving grandchildren. But what about an estate plan for your pet?
I first turned my thoughts to this question after Barbara Streisand made headlines with the news that two of her dogs are actually clones of her deceased maltipoo, Samantha. Ethical concerns aside, cloning a beloved pet is likely out of financial reach for most people, as it costs upwards of $50,000. However, there are services available to ensure a pet is appropriately memorialized. Perhaps “estate plan” is a misnomer, as pets cannot have assets that must be distributed upon death. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth giving some forethought to what will happen when a pet passes away.
In Ontario, there are a number of cemeteries that specifically cater to pets – for example, Wassenaar Pet Cemetery in Hamilton, or Thistledown Pet Memorial in Uxbridge. Southwestern Ontario even has a funeral home for pets – “Pets at Peace” provides services one would associate with a traditional funeral home, including the posting of online obituaries of recently deceased pets, private funeral services, and cremation. The internet is also full of individuals offering services for memorial pet jewellery, commemorative photo albums, and even tattoos of a deceased pet.
We all hope for our pets to live long, healthy lives. But it’s good to know that just as there are services to help when a human family member passes away, there are options for your furry friends, too.