Including your Pets in your Estate Plan


Normally when we first discuss the need for clients to include their pets into their estate plan, they think we’re crazy. My wife and I, however, view this as a very serious issue. We feel that our dogs, Fenway and Roxy, are a part of our family. If we pass away while they are alive, we want to make sure they are cared for by someone who is capable and who wants to care for them.

Selecting a Guardian: The first decision you need to make is finding someone to care for your pet. Not everyone who loves your pet will want the responsibility of caring for him/her on a daily basis. Some of those who may be open to caring for your pet might not be the best caretakers. Start by creating list of those people to whom you would feel comfortable leaving your pet. After you have identified your best options, talk with them to find out if they are open to the idea. It’s better to run the idea past them now than to surprise them after you’ve passed.

Caring for your Pet: Next, you will want to create a care manual for your pet’s guardian. You should leave daily care instructions (what food he/she eats, the typical daily routine, etc.). If your pet has any health or personality issues, you will want to include that information as well. Your pet may require daily medication or, like Fenway, may become intimidating around people he doesn’t know. This is critical information for the guardian to know. Also, if your pet knows commands, does tricks, has favorite play areas, etc, make sure to share those details. This should help communication and make the transition easier.

Most vets will allow you to leave written permission for your pet to be cared for by others. If you have not done so already, you should discuss this with your vet and add your favorite sitter, neighbor, and potential future guardian to this list. Providing the vet and the future guardian with this information will allow for continued care and/or for the transfer of medical records.

One of the hardest issues we face with our pets is when to euthanize them. It’s such an emotional topic, that I’m not even allowed to mention the word at home. Our dogs are aging and we will likely be faced with this decision at some point in the next few years. When the time comes, my wife and I will be able to weigh the options with our vet. If someone else is caring for your pet, you may want to leave behind guidelines for circumstances in which the guardians may euthanize your pet. This will become especially important if you leave money behind to care for your pet.

Many people we’ve met have already discussed burial arrangements for their pet. Some people want their pets buried in a pet cemetery, some want their ashes spread, and others have a special location such as a favorite play area or in the same plot as the “parents.” If you have strong feelings for the final resting place for your pet, you will want to include those arrangements in your estate plan.

Covering the Costs: While many people may establish both primary and contingent care takers for their pets, all too often they do not provide financial support for their pet’s care. Even if the guardians have the financial wherewithal to cover the costs of caring for a pet, it is only fair to leave some money behind for your pet’s care. Some people leave a lump sum to the guardians. Others, concerned about the guardian’s motivation to care for their pet, may decide to provide a monthly allotment or a reimbursement for care provided. Quite often this is done through a Pet Trust. Yes, they do have trusts for pets!

In a Pet Trust, you can establish care guidelines for your pet, disbursement options, and an executor to monitor the trust and your pet’s care. If you decide to establish a Pet Trust, I highly recommend that you find an attorney who has experience in drafting these trusts. The attorney will be able to discuss all of the possible scenarios with you and guide you through the process.

Your Financial Power of Attorney: When establishing your financial power of attorney, make sure to include a provision that allows for money to be used for your pet’s care. If you are unable to handle your own finances, someone else will step in and provide money management for your care. Strict interpretation from the courts may not allow for money to be spent on your pet. By including a provision for your pet, you will ensure that your pet will be cared for should you suffer a significant injury or illness.

Provisions for Care During Probate: Probate is a process that can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. Because your pet is considered property and subject to probate, you will want to include a provision in your Will that allows your executor to provide care and money for your pet while your estate is in probate.

The most important piece of estate planning is getting one in place. Meet with an attorney, your financial advisor, and accountant to determine the best course of action for your estate. Review your beneficiaries on a regular basis. You will also want to update your estate plan every five to seven years or when you have a significant life change, a beneficiary passes away, or if estate/income tax laws change.

The opinions voiced in this material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice to any individual. Consult your legal, tax, and/or financial advisor to determine what is appropriate for your situation.


Events & Sponsorships

October 3rd

Mark your calendar for the 14th Annual Paws for a Cause Charity Night & Silent Auction. This year, Paws will be held on Thursday, October 3, 2019 from 5-8PM at Monument City Brewing Company. This event will benefit The Buddy Foundation of Maryland, Community Cats of Maryland, and Furry Friends Network. 

The 14th Annual Paws for a Cause will feature guest bartenders, brewery tours, animals brought by the charities, a silent auction, raffles, games, a food truck, & more!

The Buddy Foundation of Maryland provides the financial and emotional support necessary to prevent euthanasia and/or surrender of a canine family member due to the high cost of urgent veterinary care.

Paws for a Cause is raising money for The Buddy Foundation of Maryland to help them provide financial support to 3-4 families with pets in need of urgent medical care.

Community Cats of Maryland is dedicated to helping feral cat caretakers pursue TNR. Community Cats of MD provides resources, information, and support to Maryland residents who are caring for outdoor/feral cats. They offer educational workshops about feral cat management and TNR and they run monthly low-cost spay/neuter clinics for feral cats.

Paws for a Cause is raising money to help support Community Cats of MD’s efforts to relocate, vaccinate, and medically treat the feral cats living at the former site of Bethlehem Steel. As many as fifty cats could still be living there.

Paws for a Cause also gives back annually to the Hope Fund of Furry Friends Network, Inc as a token of appreciation for bringing Fenway into the lives of founders Woody and Heidi Derricks. If it wasn’t for their experience with Furry Friends Network, Paws for a Cause wouldn’t exist.

Learn more about the event here and follow Paws for a Cause on Facebook for updates.

October 5th

We’re sponsoring Charm City Rooftop Day again this year. It’s a great afternoon for everyone to host parties on their rooftop decks to raise money for BARCS and the Buddy Foundation of Maryland.

Away from the Office

August 30

Debbie will be out of the office.

September 2nd-3rd

Our office and the markets will be closed on September 2nd for Labor Day. Both Woody and Debbie will be out of the office on September 3rd.

September 13th

Debbie will be out of the office.

September 24th

Both Woody and Debbie will be in New York for the Investment News award ceremony as a finalist for the Diversity and Inclusion awards. We’re looking forward to meeting with other leaders in diversity and inclusion to learn more about what they’re doing at their firms.

We are always accepting donations for the local animal shelters– toys, tennis balls, collars, leashes, food, cat litter, cardboard trays, office supplies, cleaning supplies, towels, mats, washcloths, etc. We will accept donations Monday-Friday between 9am & 5pm.



Elise will start kindergarten in September. Her preschool had a great sendoff for our girl. They got Elise a cap and gown, gave her a certification of achievement, and a book about a girl’s first week at kindergarten. Heidi and I had a picnic lunch at preschool with Elise and her classmates to celebrate.

With the preschool being less than a year old, Elise is their first student to transition to kindergarten. The past year has been a wonderful year for her and she’ll miss her teachers and the staff dearly. As a thank you, Elise helped make a wreath for the school and painted a picture frame for her teacher. There were a lot of tears on her last day. As parents, it’s great to know how loved our girl is.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s newsletter.

Best Wishes,

Woody Derricks, CFP®, ADPA®


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2809 Boston St, Suite 509
Baltimore, MD, 21224
(410) 732-2633 | (877) 807-2633
Available by appointment in Alexandria & Washington DC