Pet Estate Planning: How Will Your Pet be Protected?
One of the most important aspects of being a pet owner is making sure our animals are always cared for. Our pets are family and as such, we don’t want to worry about something happening to them if we are incapacitated or no longer around. Preparing for the future with pet estate planning is the best way to protect them. Without it, you’re hoping someone will take them in and that your pet doesn’t end up in a shelter. But what does pet estate planning look like and where do you start?
Identify the Right Caregiver
Entrusting your companion to someone else is difficult so it’s important to take time and be diligent in your pet estate planning. Ask yourself who would be willing to give your pet the care and attention they deserve. Talk to family and friends to see who might be willing to provide that care for your pet (it’s a good idea to have a backup as well as a first choice). Discuss your expectations to see if caring for your pet would be a good fit for their lifestyle and for your pet. Some things to discuss could be:
- Housing: where would your pet stay (indoor or outdoor, crate or in a room, etc)
- Veterinary care: would your pet would continue to receive good veterinary care
- Diet and exercise: not everyone has the same ideas for what a pet needs. You would want to discuss what food your pet should eat and any allergies they have. You may also want to discuss how often to walk your dog or play with your cat.
- Medicine: if your pet has meds they take or any health issues, you would discuss this with the potential new owner or caregiver.
Is a Will the Way to Go?
Planning your pet’s potential future can be a daunting task. As their owner, you know what is best for them so documenting their needs is important. This can be done by speaking to your estate planning attorney and having them put your pet in your will.
However, it can take time for the courts to decide on an executor for the will (especially if one isn’t specified)…which could leave your pet with nowhere to go during that time. And there are other issues with including your pet only in your will. This is when a pet trust or a pet protection agreement can serve you better.
Pet Trust vs Will—What is the Difference?
A will is a document that instructs what you want for the life of your pet after your death. It is up to the executor of your will whether or not to honor your wishes. There is no legal protection for your pet or for any money you leave behind to care for him.
A pet trust or pet protection agreement allows for total legal control of who is appointed as trustee, who is the caregiver for your pet, how your pet lives, and how your money is disbursed. You can designate what happens if your pet dies, and whether they are buried or cremated. Should you ever need to go to a nursing home or other long-term-care facility, a pet trust also ensures your pet’s care during that time. And can be simpler to update a pet trust than a will if something changes.
For more information regarding your options, please visit www.americanbar.org.
How Much Money Should I Leave?
To get an estimate for how much money to allocate for your pet, calculate how much you spend on annual pet care costs (including veterinary care, boarding, food, litter, etc.) and multiply that by your pet’s expected lifespan. Allow a few additional years in case your pet outlives the average. Add funds for emergency or specialty care (especially in their later years), and for burial or cremation costs. You may want to consider pet health insurance as an option to help cover medical costs. Lastly, decide whether you are including a thank you or payment to the person who would be taking over the care of your pet.
Protecting your companion’s future will give you peace of mind throughout all of yours. We aren’t experts on pet estate planning, but if you have questions about planning for your pet’s future medical care, speak with us here at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services.