What to Do if You Inherit Someone Else’s Dog

Nothing about the passing of a loved one is easy. But what is already a painful and stress-filled situation might be made more stressful if you’ve inherited your loved one’s dog, especially if you weren’t prepared for the challenge of welcoming a new pet into your life.

Pets can’t legally inherit money or property, so dog owners who want to make sure their pets are properly looked after in the event of the owner’s passing may set up a pet trust. A trust establishes a manager, or a “trustee,” to manage assets included in the trust, and a beneficiary who receives the benefits of the assets.

Is there a Pet Trust?

In the case of a pet trust, the asset would likely be money to put toward the continued care and feeding of a pet; the trustee would be the designated caregiver, and the beneficiary would be the pet.

In the absence of a pet trust, the original owner may leave a will that designates who should care for the dog. In that case, the person specified will inherit the dog automatically.

Who Decides Who Gets the Dog?

If the designated caregiver declines to accept the dog, or if no caregiver has been named, then it will be up to the executor of the will to find a suitable home for the dog. If multiple people volunteer, then the executor will have the authority to determine who gets to keep the dog.

Without a pet trust, any dog that you inherit will be your dog. Along with full ownership, you’ll also be responsible for expenses associated with the dog.

If You Keep the Dog

Keep in mind that many dogs experience grief when separated from their owners. This could be the root cause of some behavioral issues, or it could exacerbate issues that already existed.

How to Help a Grieving Dog

Signs of grief in dogs include depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, and either wandering around as though searching for their owner or waiting by the door for them to come back.

Understand that you’re not legally obligated to keep a dog you’ve inherited. Whether you consented ahead of time to be named as the pet’s caregiver or not, both circumstances and feelings can change.

Do You Have to Keep the Dog?