We generally outlive our pets as they have a shorter life span than us. That’s why it is recommended that as responsible owners we plan ahead for our dog’s passing. However, what if the opposite happens? What if we become laid up, ill, or worse, die first? Who would give Fido home? Who would provide for his food, water, and vet care? Who would take care of him and love him?
Preparing for the Unexpected
To ensure that your beloved four-legged friend continues to receive adequate care in the event that you get seriously ill, meet a grave accident, or face death, it is critical that you plan and make arrangements in advance.
1. Call a friend. Find a few dependable friends or relatives who would be willing to serve as emergency caregivers should something unexpected happen to you. Provide them with keys to your home, feeding and pet care instructions, as well as the contact information of your vet.
2. Post notices. Aside from carrying an “alert” card in your wallet all the time, try posting removable “In case of emergency” signs on your windows or doors as well. This way, responding personnel during emergencies like fire or any other home disaster can be notified easily about the number and the kind of pets you have at home.
3. Make formal arrangements. Sometimes, it’s not enough that long ago a friend of yours has promised to take care of your pooch. To ensure that your plans to secure your dog when worse comes to worst are fulfilled, start making formal arrangements that will cover the sufficient care of your pet. Work with a lawyer to draft a special will, pet trust, or other document which draws the specific care and ownership of your dog as well as the amount needed to care for him.
According to AmericanBar.org, there are 3 documents to consider when planning for your dog in the event of your death.
The will is valid after death, and its purpose is to distribute property. The free-standing, traditional pet trust enlists a trustee who distributes funds and ensures that the person caring for a pet follows the owner’s instructions. The pet protection agreement is the layperson’s pet trust—an affordable, fill-in-the-blank, legally enforceable document.
Is designating a caretaker in my Will enough?
There are various kinds of wills and trusts, and choosing which is best for you and Fido basically depends on your situation and your pooch’s needs. It is highly recommended that you consult your lawyer first before making a decision.
However, you should be aware that mentioning your pet in a will typically does not provide adequate protection for his or her care after your passing.
- Instructions in a will are not enforceable. Wills simply distribute property. For example, your will can designate your friend John to take custody of your dog, but it can not force John to then keep the dog, or provide necessary veterinary care. As soon as John takes custody, he can then do whatever he wishes (within the law) with your beloved pet.
- Wills are rarely, if ever, immediately enacted. Who will care for your pet during the waiting period between your passing and the reading of the will? Legal issues can hold up will probating for months, even years.
- Wills do not allow for planned monetary disbursements over your pet’s lifetime. A specific pet trust or pet protection agreement is the best way to disburse funds for your pet’s care.
- The courts can make changes to your will if they see fit.
- A will does not address potential issues with your designated caretaker in which he may not be suitable to care for your pet. For example, if you will your dog to John, but John later becomes unable to care for your dog, who, then, takes custody?
To absolutely ensure that your pet will be cared for according to your wishes, it is recommended that pet parents complete and file a Pet Protection Agreement. A simple, inexpensive, legally binding form can be found by clicking here.
So many of us view our pets as members of the family. So, in the same way that responsible parents plan ahead for the care of their children, should an accident or unforeseen illness occur, plans should also be put in place your furry family members.