Since our pets have shorter life spans, we don’t typically think about outliving them. But it does happen.
It is estimated that between five and seven million companion animals end up in animal shelters due to the death of their owners. For some pets, they are lucky to be surrendered to a no-kill shelter and will live out the rest of their lives with good care. Unfortunately, another nearly three to four million of them end up being euthanized (60 percent of dogs; 70 percent of cats) when new homes can’t be found.
That’s probably not what you want for your pet or pets.
If there are no provisions for their ongoing care, pets are considered “personal property.” They will be given to whoever inherits the other personal possessions, such as the furniture and cars. Sometimes this person or family may not want or be able to care for the pet. The pet then ends up being surrendered to a shelter.
You can avoid this unhappy situation by including provisions for your pet(s) in your estate plan. Here are some of the ways in which you can ensure a good life for your furry family member or members if you become incapacitated or you pass away.
*A Will: You can include instructions in your Will on how to disburse your property, including your pet. For example, Bill gets the house and the dog. However, a Will does not dictate that the heir must take care of the inheritance, whether it’s a house or a pet. The person could take the money you leave for pet care, surrender the pet and use the money for something else. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include a directive for your pet in your Will. But to be extra certain that your wishes will be followed, you may want to supplement it with a pet trust or pet protection agreement.
*Pet Trust: This is a legal document setting out the specific details for the disbursement of funds for your pet’s care. It is valid during and after your lifetime. It can also help mitigate disputes over money from unhappy or litigious heirs. A pet trust can also help ensure that should you need to move into a nursing home or other long-term care facility, your pet may be able to go with you. A number of care facilities recognize the benefits of pets being with patients.
*Pet Protection Agreement: This is a layperson’s document that can help establish continuing care for your pet without the need of an attorney as you would for a pet trust. You can usually complete a pet protection agreement with the help of your accountant, insurance representative, investment advisor, or even a paralegal. One note about a pet agreement as opposed to a pet trust – a pet agreement cannot ensure that you and your pet can go to a nursing or long-term care facility together.
*Letter of Final Wishes: Since any legal document takes time to process, you may want to include instructions regarding your pet in a Letter of Final Wishes. The letter should specify the person who will be assuming immediate responsibility for caring for the pet, even if it is only a temporary situation, as well as information regarding your pet’s veterinarian, diet and medicines (if any).
Of course, whether or not you have a pet, you should have a Will and a written document detailing your last wishes. There may be other documents that your financial advisor or planner will recommend. We at LegacyShield can help you with putting together the documents, letters, information and policies you need in one highly secured online vault, accessible only to those you designate.
LegacyShield is a complete legacy and estate planning platform that provides the ability to safely and securely create, store, and share all of your most important information today, tomorrow, and anytime you aren’t able.