Ask ERIE: Can I Name My Pet as a Life Insurance Beneficiary?

This summer’s blockbuster movie “The Secret Life of Pets” might have you thinking about your furry friend more than usual lately. After all, what pet owner wouldn’t want the best for his or her pet if the unthinkable happened? Maybe you even want to leave your pet in the lap of luxury, like the movie’s fictional Max and Duke.

Leona Helmsley is perhaps the most notorious example of someone leaving a beloved pet a small fortune. She bequeathed $12 million to her dog Trouble when she passed away in 2007. (A court later reduced that amount to a mere $2 million.) That fortune let Trouble live out the rest of his days in a hotel, where he was cared for by a paid guardian and had an annual allowance of $100,000 for full-time security, $8,000 for grooming and $1,200 for food.

Most of us don’t have that kind of money to leave behind to a pet. So can life insurance provide the funds to let Fluffy live in comfort?

Generally speaking, insurance companies (including Erie Family Life Insurance) will not let you name a pet as a life insurance beneficiary. Pets cannot be life insurance beneficiaries because they are considered property and because they are unable to sign off on legal documents. (This hasn’t stopped people from trying though—underwriters at Erie Family Life report that one woman asked to name her 13 birds as the beneficiaries of her life insurance policy.)

If you’re concerned about your pet’s welfare if you were to outlive him, it’s best to speak with an attorney and/or financial advisor about your wishes. One option could be to fund a pet trust with life insurance, naming a trustee who will take care of your pet.


ERIE loves pets and their owners. It’s why we offer pet injury coverage that’s automatically included in ERIE auto policies*. It covers up to two dogs and/or cats that are injured in your vehicle at the time of an accident. Contact an Erie Insurance agent in your community to learn more.

 *Not available in North Carolina. Total limit for pet injuries is $1,000 with a $500/pet limit. For death, the amount is $500 to replace the animal or $1,000 total.  Included in that amount are the cost of first wellness visit and the cost to spay or neuter the new pet.

 

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