Facing our own mortality is never easy, nor is contemplating a time when we might be incapacitated and cannot take care of our own needs, not to mention those of our pets! Most of us assume we will outlive our pets. But did you know that a large percentage of animals in shelters are there because their owners died and no one in their surviving family wanted them? The sad truth is that many of these animals are euthanized, because their age or other factors make it difficult or impossible for the shelter to rehome them. That’s why it is important to give some thought to the fate of your pets in the event that you die or are incapacitated, and to do it NOW.
First, you will need to identify a caregiver. In fact, you might want to identify more than one – a “back-
Regardless of you whom designate as a potential caregiver, you will want to discuss this with him or her and make sure that he or she is “on board” with the idea. NEVER just assume that someone will take over the care of your pet!!! Be sure to choose a caregiver who will provide the type of home environment and care that you want. For example, if your dog is not good around children, then you will want to make sure your potential caregiver is “kid-
It is a good idea to carry an “In Case of Emergency” card in your purse or wallet, which will notify first responders of the existence of a pet that will need care in your absence. Be sure the card contains current and accurate contact information for the potential caregiver(s). It could say something as simple as: “I have 2 Samoyed dogs at home. Please contact XXX as soon as possible.” Consider also including contact information for your veterinarian; this could be especially important if you are involved in an accident and your pet is in the car with you at the time.
Of course, we all know that there’s no such thing as a “free” pet! Finances are also important to consider when planning for its future. Despite what you may have read about celebrities leaving their fortunes to their pets, you should know that this is not exactly the case. Pets are considered to be property under the laws of most jurisdictions. You cannot leave property (money) to other property (a pet). However, you CAN stipulate in your will that funds from your estate should be provided to your pet’s caregiver, with instructions on how they are to be spent for the pet.
Please keep in mind that any provisions you make in your will may not be immediately known by your heirs or the pet’s caregiver. Wills have to be probated before any of the estate is distributed. That means that immediate access to funds for your pet’s care will not be possible. With that in mind, you may want to establish a trust that can provide money for the care of your pet right away. There are several types of trusts that can be established, including specific Pet Trusts (in some states), Living Trusts, and perhaps others. The laws regarding trusts – and the different types of trusts and their durations – vary from state to state. Please note that we are NOT lawyers. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH YOUR ATTORNEY FOR ADVICE.
Thinking about a time when we may be separated from our beloved pets – either temporarily or permanently – is never easy! But doing so NOW, before the need arises, can provide peace of mind and a secure future for your pet. We hope the foregoing has helped to give you at least a place to start as you tackle this difficult subject.