How to leave a life insurance benefit to a non-human


Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson

Blog author Holly Johnson

Published October 4, 2017 | 4 min read

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Updated July 12, 2019. So, you love your pets more than your real-life family. Believe it or not, this isn’t uncommon. After all, your dog Larry doesn’t bicker with his siblings, skip Thanksgiving dinner or disappoint you with his life choices. Nope, your pet is all about clean living and being there when you need a friend.

With this in mind, it’s only natural for you to leave some life insurance behind for your favorite non-human. Heck, you may even want to name your pet as your only beneficiary.

Sound extreme? Trust us when we say this isn’t nuts at all, and it may even happen more than you think. For example, in 2011, a woman in Italy left a $13 million fortune to a stray cat she adopted. In another instance, a Dallas millionaire is set to leave a $75 million fortune behind to his dogs, and “everyone in his life has come to terms with it.”

How to leave your life insurance benefits to a non-human in 4 easy steps

Ys, you can leave your pet behind a huge stack of cash – or even life insurance proceeds. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1. Make your wishes known.

The first step to leaving life insurance proceeds to your pet is making sure people in your life know about what’s to happen. You wouldn’t want your daughter to count on receiving your life insurance policy when it’s really going to your beloved cat Bob, would you?

Not only do you want to make your wishes known, but you’ll want to speak with individuals who may be called upon to care for your pet. This leads to the second step …

Step 2. Name a beneficiary & caretaker for your pet.

Leaving your non-human friend life insurance proceeds is the best way to make sure they’re cared for once you die, but that doesn’t mean your pet doesn’t need some help. Obviously, your pet or other non-human friend will need someone to use the life insurance proceeds on their behalf. They’ll need someone to buy their food, take them to the veterinarian, provide them with shelter and all that jazz.

So yes, you should decide who will oversee your pet’s care and the money you leave behind. Not only that, but you should let the individual(s) know they are being named.

Step 3. Set up a trust for the pet.

By far, the best way to account for the financials of leaving your pet life insurance proceeds is setting up a pet trust. Pet trusts are legal and binding in 49 states plus the District of Columbia – but not in Minnesota.

Pet trusts allow you to set up a “trustee” and a caregiver to handle the situation upon your death. The trustee will handle the financial side of the equation, whereas the caregiver will actually care for and love on your animal-friend.

This set-up provides a certain level of “checks and balances” in terms of your pet’s new life. With a separate person overseeing the financial side of things, your pet’s caretaker can’t just blow the life insurance proceeds on themselves.

Step 4. Name your pet trust as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy.

Once your pet trust is set up and good to go, you’ll want to name the trust as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. This way, when you die, your money goes to the trust where it can be handled by the trustee and caregiver you’ve designated instead of your ungrateful daughter Janet who forgot your birthday last year.

It’s also important to keep in mind that, if you’re feeling generous, you can name more than one beneficiary on your life insurance policy. You can leave half or any other percentage of your life insurance policy to your pet, and let your family split the rest. It’s totally up to you.

If you don’t want to split up your existing life insurance policy, you can also buy a new one specifically for your pet. And depending on how much you want to leave your animal behind, that might be the best idea of all.

With a policy for the humans and another for the non-humans, you can ensure everyone’s cared for financially in the event of your death – and that your final expenses are covered as well.

The Bottom Line

Sometimes our non-human friends are just as important as our blood relatives. Heck, sometimes they’re more important! In those cases, you may be leaning toward leaving your life insurance proceeds to a pet who has never let you down.

Fortunately, you can set up your life insurance situation however you want. You can tailor your policy (or policies) to your specific needs, and even buy multiple policies to make sure you’re covered in all aspects of your life.

The best part is, you can get a free quote for life insurance online – and from the comfort of your home. So, cozy up with your favorite pet and start shopping.

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