Category Archives: Wills & Estate Planning

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My Pets Have Outlived Me, What Happens Next??

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Anyone that knows me, knows that my pets are the loves of my life. From my very first dog to the five pets I own now. I will and do go out of my way to make sure their healthy, happy and very much loved. I ponder so many of life’s issues. And the many things I see happening in this world sometimes scare me. And when I contemplate about how our world is constantly changing, and seeing incidences like what happened in Washington D.C. On September 16, 2013, a lot of times My mind wonders what if that was me that was randomly shot and killed . Or what if I died in a flood similar to what’s happening in Colorado and my pets lived ? What would happen to them? I understand that many people in my circle don’t understand the feelings I have for my pets. They are my children. And if I passed on , unexpectantly ,will my pets continue to be loved and taken care of ?

I’m still young but it won’t be long before I hit middle age and I,like many pet parents have always assumed I will outlive my pets. One of my babies, LoLa Bella( a shih tzu) , was adopted by me when she was a puppy because the older lady had passed on. I can tell from what little time she had , my LoLa was spoiled. I’m sure the lady wanted to make sure she would be ok and I wish I could tell her she is. So now I ponder what if I died? Will my husband take care of the pets , or my friends or family? Would they end on the street or euthanized by a shelter ? The thought scares me and I recognized I need to make plans now for my pets.

I am going to venture out and say this issue is one many pet parents haven’t thought about or planned. Well I’ve read many articles on this topic and I’m going to provide a list of things we as pet parents must do. Because wiith no prior arrangements you take a risk that your pets may become abused, neglected or homeless.

HOW DO WE PLAN? / WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS

That lack of knowledge sends an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 pets to shelters each year after their owners die or become incapacitated.

Estate Planning for Pets 101

PET’S TRUST

We’ve all heard about the ‘pet’ that inherits everything. This is truly an option but also illicits the most protest from relatives who think you must have lost your mind. Well one option that is viable is a ‘Pets Trust.’ This is much like a trust you make for children where the Trust is funded with assets and a Trustee is appointed to watch over the pet’s caregiver. Legalzoom.com has a Pet Care Trust Agreement form that can be found on their website.

While trusts can be relatively expensive to administer and maintain, they add a layer of oversight: The trustee pays the money to your appointed caregiver and may regularly inspect your pet’s health and living conditions. Having the person with the money be someone different from the person with custody of your animal creates a system of checks and balances.

If thats not a suitable option , another option is to include your pet in your ‘Last Will & Testament,’ appointing a caregiver and making a financial gift to that person.

Find Your Replacement ( Who will be listed in The Pet’s Trust?)

Identifying a committed caregiver is the most important step in planning for your pet’s future. Talk with everyone from your veterinarian to family members and pet-sitters about becoming your pet’s designated caregiver. “A lot of people just assume, ‘Oh, my son’s going to take the dog, or my daughter’s going to take the cat,’ and then what happens is they don’t want to take the pets,” To avoid misunderstandings, I recommend getting commitments in writing.

Appoint an Understudy

You should also identify alternate caregivers. Suppose your designated caregiver might end up traveling frequently or living somewhere that doesn’t allow pets. Always have at least one or two backups. And if you are limited on the people you trust with responsibility for your pets , create a panel of friends or family members in charge of selecting a long-term caregiver and arranging temporary care for your animal until a permanent situation is worked out.

PETS LETTER OF WISHES

Another great solution is you can write a ‘Pets Letter of Wishes’ that can “provide a powerful moral statement telling the Probate Court exactly what you and your pet want.” This will protect your pet without taking the steps involved in making a ‘will.’ In this letter you can state who you would wish to care for your pets upon your death, what monetary funds should be used to help care for your pets, and list all contact information. Of course, it’s very important that you discuss this with the persons named prior to writing the letter. Again ,It’s also good to have an alternative person named in case circumstances have changed and your designee is unable to take the responsibility.

Establish Expectations

In addition to your Pets Letter OF WISHES, create an information packet that details your pet’s medical history and daily care needs, because “obviously, a cat or a dog can’t say, ‘Oh, well, here’s the food I eat, here’s how much I eat, here’s when I need my treats, here’s when I need my walk.’ ” Make sure the information is easily accessible and specifies the standard of living you want for your pet, including medical care and end-of-life decisions.

SAFE PLACE FOR PETS

I also recently discovered an organization entitled ‘Safe Place For Pets.’ Safe Place for Pets is dedicated to working in partnership with terminally ill pet owners to find new homes for their animal companions. What an awesome idea . It’s also a great relief to those with a terminal diagnosis who want to be certain their pets are well placed and cared for. I also suggest checking your local area for organizations similar to this one.

LEGAL LOOPS

Many types of wills and trusts exist, so it’s crucial to prepare carefully and seek legal advice. Before talking with a lawyer, you should have a plan in mind. It’s essentially “planning the same as you might if you were dealing with a young child.”

Til Next Time…..

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