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Insurance 101

FAQs on what to do with pets when owner dies

Insurance 101

FAQs on what to do with pets when owner dies

This song goes out to all the fur baby mamas.

Life insurance is about determining the right amount of coverage for your loved ones. And pets are included in that. At least we hope they are. If you’re not treating your pet right, then we have some other words for you. For the loving and doting parents, this breakdown is for you. And it appears to be a lot of y’all. A YouGov poll showed that nine in 10 people consider their pet a part of their family.

Figuring out what money goes to your pet will be specific to them. How much of the payout will go to rehoming them? Where will your cat(s) go? Is the dog going to live with family or friends? And what about orgs that specialize in long-term care of pets of deceased owners? Here are some frequently asked questions about using life insurance for your pets.

  1. Do I really need to use part of my policy on my pets?
  2. How much is the right amount of coverage for my pet?
  3. Who will care for my pets when I die?
  4. Can I name my pet as my beneficiary?
  5. How will I make sure my pet is being taken care of?
  6. Can you euthanize your pet and bury them with you?

Do I really need to use part of my policy on my pets?

“Aw, Wyshbox blog! Really?” we can hear you saying. But it’s up to you and your beneficiaries, of course. You set the expectations for how that payout is to be used in the event of your untimely death. And your beneficiaries can uphold those expectations to the best of their ability. But thinking about financially caring for your pet in the face of tragedy is part of the pet-parent life. It’s because you’re not just thinking of food or the occasional toy. You also have a lot of other things to take into account.

Annual spending on pets in the US

Graph of most common pet expenditures: food (dogs: $442, cats: $329), vet care (dogs $421, cats: $125), grooming (dogs: $122, cats: $26), supplies (dogs: $109, cats: $89)
Statista article, “ Average annual expenditure on dogs and cats in the United States as of 2020, by
category,” December 2021.


How much is the right amount of coverage for my pet?

Consider the costs of your pet or pets right now. Do you know how much you spend on them in just a month? That includes things like food, treats, cleaning supplies, etc. A recent survey highlights that millennial pet parents spend an average of $133.20/mo on their most expensive pet. And dogs are more expensive on average. Dog owners spend approx. $117.20/mo compared to cat owners $81.40.

And that’s just baseline monthly expenses. Vet trips can get pricey too. A routine vet checkup can cost anywhere between $50 to $250. That’s not including services like spay or neutering, physicals, dental cleanings, and many others. When thinking about leaving some money for your pet, it’s important to think about all the costs associated with them, not just the basics.

Who will care for my pets when I die?

Talk with your loved ones about taking in your pet. If you have a beneficiary, it might make sense to have them also act as your pet’s caretaker. Other times, the beneficiary and the caretaker are different people. Whatever’s best for you and your pet.

But a trustworthy caretaker is desirable. Once you’ve thought of the person, consider making detailed plans about what should be done. If you die suddenly, can that caretaker gain access to the pet? Are they aware of medications? Do your neighbors know how many pets you have in the event of any escaping? Once you have your plans, communicate them with the caretaker as thoroughly as possible.

There are also organizations that specialize in long-term care for pets of deceased owners. A payout can also go towards this if the org requires a fee or donation to operate. If you’re thinking of sending your pet to a sanctuary or pet retirement home, see it for yourself in person before making any kind of final decision.

Can I name my pet as my beneficiary?

Life insurance beneficiaries are simply the people who receive the proceeds of your policy (once you die, that is). According to our legal expert, you can’t name a pet as the beneficiary of your policy, generally speaking. However, people have created trusts for their pets and named the trust as a beneficiary. Whether you choose a trust or a caretaker, you’ll want to make sure the money is being handled in a way that honors your expectations.

How do I make sure my pet is being taken care of?

When your beneficiary receives the payout, they can do with that money as they see fit. Now, most people would follow through on the wishes (or wyshes) of the policyholder they knew and loved. But, for whatever reason, some people may not follow it to the letter. So have conversations with more than just your beneficiary about your expectations. If your pet goes to a loved one, let others know what you expect for their care.

Can you euthanize your pet and bury them with you?

What are you, a pharaoh? Are you the jade emperor? If not, then calm down.

Seriously though, the question is tricky. Pets are considered property under the law. And there have been instances of pet owners requesting their pets be euthanized with them, which were fulfilled. Legally, there may be questions as to whether or not this is the true intent of the deceased. Or if the desires contradict local policy. It’s illegal for pet remains to be buried with human remains in some states, while others allow for such practices. And it may be difficult to find a veterinarian willing to fulfill such desires. Ultimately, it depends on where you live and the law. But if your pet is healthy and capable of loving others as well as they loved you, then a caretaker may be the better option.

The opinions we expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations.
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