Approximately 62% of households in the United States have a pet but very few of these households have a contingency plan in place for their pets. Hardly anyone thinks they will be out lived by their pet so provisions to ensure the pets care, should the owner become incapacitated or die, doesn’t cross their mind.
Around 500,000 pets in shelters are euthanized around the United States each year because their guardian did not have a contingency plan in place. Many of these pets are surrendered to shelters by family members who do not have the resources to care for the pet and all efforts to find it a new home have failed. Often, these pets are old and lie out the remainder of their lives in a cold, strange place with strange people. They are so despondent that they do not eat or interact with others and are labeled as unadoptable and do not “sell” well.
Legally, animals are considered tangible personal property but estate and trust lawyers do not think of pets as property so, when discussing estate planning with their clients, the question of pet guardianship and animal trusts are rarely asked.
It is up to the pet owner to have a contingency plan in place because there is the possibility you won’t come home one day. Name a couple of friends or family members committed to caring for your pet should you be hospitalized or die. If a committed person cannot be found, try other venues such as a veterinarian technician, pet sitter, and rescue groups. Bequeathing your pet in a will is good and is certainly better than nothing but remember, a will can be contested over any number of matters and held in probate (which includes the pet) for months at a time.
A good idea would be to carry a “pet card” in your wallet with your pet’s name, type, name of contact person and any special care instructions. This will expedite care to your pet, by a police officer or other responsible person, should you become incapacitated. They will know there is a pet relying on you. It is, also, a good idea to include this information in your estate planning material.
Another matter to consider is providing enough money for the lifetime care of your pet by calculating the pet’s yearly expenses and then multiplying that figure by the pet’s life expectancy then placing the funds in a pet trust.
There are, basically, two types of pet trusts; the traditional pet trust, recognized in all states, which allows the pet owner to specify what the designated caregiver’s responsibilities will be to care for the pet and to appoint a trustee to manage the money allotted to the caregiver for the care of the pet as well as what is to be done should the designated caregiver can no longer care for the pet. The second trust is a “statutory pet trust”, authorized in a majority of states but gives the pet owner limited decisions concerning the terms of the trust. It is bare-bones and basic and the state fills any gaps. Not much pet owner peace of mind here!
It’s your pet – it’s your call but keep in mind our pets are family and they rely on us to take care of them, regardless. It is irresponsible to ignore making a contingency plan to ensure their continued care. After all, you may not come home one day.
Posted with permission By: Bonnie Weinhold – Chocolate Dog Ad., Inc.
I’m a dog lover and I love writing about dogs. I enjoy writing to inform and educate pet owners but adding humor to my writing is a self-indulgence, after all, sometimes you just can’t take your dog too seriously.