This is Louise. She’s a redbone coon hound and she’s my pet, but she’s also my family. It’s sad, but unfortunately very true, that many furry family members, like Louise, end up in shelters after their owner dies or becomes incapacitated. In fact, the Humane Society estimates that between 100,00 to 500,000 pets are placed in shelters each year for exactly this reason, and a large number of these animals are ultimately euthanized.
Whether we like it or not, the law considers our pets to be nothing more than personal property; just like cars, furniture, and electronic devices. In light of this cold legal reality, it’s vital that you provide for your pet’s future care through estate planning, so when you die or if you become incapacitated, your beloved friend won’t be treated like personal property and wind up in a shelter or worse.
I offer you pet lovers out there the following tips- helpful advice to ensure your faithful companion receives the best possible care if you’re no longer able to do it yourself.
Identify a new caregiver for your pet
Selecting a trustworthy caregiver is the first—and most important—step in protecting your pet(s) through estate planning. Many people assume their children, relatives, or friends will be suitable guardians, and these folks may even tell you as much in conversation. But the reality is, properly caring for most pets is a major commitment of time, emotion, and finances.
It’s best to come up with a list of potential candidates, and then have a frank talk with each of them, discussing the extent of care your pet requires and whether they have any personal issues (allergies, housing, other pets) that might prevent them from providing the necessary care.
If you don’t know any suitable caregivers, charitable groups, such as the Safe Haven® Surviving Pet Care Program, can provide for your pet in the event of your death or incapacity.
Get it in writing
Once you’ve chosen a guardian—along with one or two alternates in case something happens to your top choice—outline all of your pet’s care requirements, listing its health issues, dietary concerns, medications, etc. These requirements should be indicated within a properly drafted legal document to ensure that your wishes are properly carried out and enforceable.
As as Personal Family Lawyer® law firm, we can help you create a legally binding agreement detailing your pet’s specific needs, which can be easily added to your other estate planning documents.
Provide funding for your pet’s continued care
All pets have basic food, shelter, and medical needs, and these needs can be quite expensive, depending on the animal’s age and health. And if you’re like most pet owners, you probably want your pet to receive more than just the bare necessities, so it’s imperative that you leave enough money to cover all such expenses. It’s possible to leave care instructions and funding for your pet in your estate plan.
Be sure to not only provide clear, detailed instructions on how your pet should be taken care of in your estate plan, but also include the necessary funding to cover these costs. And be sure you think about all of your pet’s future needs, including any extra services—grooming, boarding, and walking services—when calculating these expenses.
From our family (furry family members and all!) to yours,