Estate planning for pets is important if you want to secure your pets welfare after you die. Americans own 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats. That is a lot of pets. This doesn’t even include the birds and reptiles that people have as pets. You don’t want to forget to include any of these lovable creatures in your estate planning documents. You can provide for your pets in your Financial Durable General Power of Attorney, Last Will and/or your Revocable Living Trust.
Let’s go through each scenario when your pets may need the help of your estate planning documents. Let’s say you have 1 dog, Fluffy, and 1 cat, Tiger. You are in a terrible car accident and Fluffy and Tiger are home alone.
What can you do to make sure Fluffy and Tiger are taken care of?
1. Have information on a card in your wallet or on your phone that says who should be contacted to take care of Fluffy and Tiger.
2. Have a magnet on your refrigerator that says who should be contacted to take care of Fluffy and Tiger.
What if you are out of it for a period of time?
If you have a Financial Durable General Power of Attorney in place, this will help tremendously. A Financial Durable General Power of Attorney is an estate planning document that names someone to make money decisions for you if you are incapacitated. You can include in the Financial Durable General Power of Attorney that you want some of your money used to care for your pets. The document can even go as far as to say if you are permanently incapacitated, money will be available to help find a permanent home for Fluffy and Tiger.
It is important to specify caring for your pets in estate planning documents because frankly, in the height of a crisis, people may not be thinking about your pets in a major way.
What if you don’t make it?
That’s why you need estate planning for pets ahead of time. If you have a Revocable Living Trust or Last Will in place you are set. You can say in those documents that Fluffy and Tiger should go first to live with John. If John is not alive or is unable to care for Fluffy and Tiger, then Fluffy and Tiger should go to Melissa.
You can say that money should be set aside for John or Melissa for the care of the pets. For example, your Revocable Living Trust can say that $10,000 should be given to John for the care of Fluffy and Tiger. If Fluffy and Tiger die before the full $10,000 is spent, then John gets to keep the remaining funds. If John is the right person to be the caretaker, then we are assuming he will not expedite Fluffy and Tiger’s deaths in order to keep the extra money.
What else is needed to care for Fluffy and Tiger?
Additionally, you should put together an information sheet for John or Melissa. This information sheet should be kept with your estate planning documents. It should not actually be part of the written documents themselves. I would include the following info about Fluffy and Tiger:
Date of birth
The food your pet eats
The location of food
The location of treats
Schedule of treats
Where you pet sleeps
Location of leashes, balls, etc.
Whether your pet likes driving in the car
How your pet reacts at the vet
Medical issues of the breed
Medications taken by your pet
Vet name, address, phone number and email
Grooming schedule and location
Location of medical records
Name, address, phone number and email of doggie daycare or babysitter
Your views on euthanasia for the pet
What if John and Melissa both are unable to take care of Fluffy and Tiger?
The trustee of your Revocable Living Trust, (i.e. the person in charge of everything when you pass away), or the executor of your Last Will, will be responsible for finding a home for Fluffy and Tiger if both John and Melissa are unable to care for them. What steps should the trustee or executor take to find good home(s)?
1. Talk to Fluffy and Tiger’s vet
2. Ask around
3. Use social media
4. Talk to breeders of Fluffy dogs or Tiger cats
5. Contact no kill shelters:
a. Animals Benefit Club of Arizona
b. Arizona Animal Welfare League
c. HALO Animal Rescue
What if you don’t have estate planning documents in place?
If you don’t have a Financial Durable General Power of Attorney, Last Will or Revocable Living Trust in place, get moving! Fluffy and Tiger will be cared for regardless, but maybe not by who you want and maybe not in the style to which Fluffy and Tiger have become accustomed.
Get in contact with me today to make sure your estate planning affairs are in order.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way