Plan Now: Don't Let Your Pet Become a Shelter Statistic
Every day, animals are sent to shelters, confused and afraid—or they’re euthanized-- because their humans have become incapacitated or died. Don’t let that happen to your best friends. Take steps to protect them now!
It doesn't matter how young or healthy you are. Life is unpredictable.
NAME A GUARDIAN…OR TWO Some people assume family members will care for their pets when they pass; the sad reality is, many don't. You might ask a dependable friend to be your pet's guardian. Either way, name a few back-ups: Good intentions sometimes take a back seat to life’s surprises, such as the guardian's own illness, job loss, a child who develops allergies or a new spouse who doesn’t like animals.
Don't forget to tell your attorney and/or family members whom you've designated to provide a home for your pet, including back-ups, along with their contact information.
ABOUT WILLS...AND BETTER WAYS TO FUND YOUR ANIMAL'S CARE You can transfer money for your animal's ongoing care to the guardian you choose through your will, but it won't be available until after probate, which can take a year. Wills can be contested, tying up funds even longer. And a will won't provide for your animals if you're alive but incapacitated.
►Life insurance and retirement accounts let you name beneficiaries, who receive assets immediately--this money bypasses probate. There may be tax advantages for the beneficiaries as well; consult a tax professional.
►Non-retirement savings and investment account assets pass directly to your beneficiary--without probate--if designated as "payable on death" or "transfer on death."
►Pet Trust requires the help of an attorney. It distributes specified assets to your pet guardian should you die or become incapacitated. Check with your attorney to make sure pet trusts are legally enforceable in your state.
►Pet Protection Agreement® can be completed without an attorney (though you may wish to have yours review it). Legally enforceable in all 50 states, it doesn’t need to go through probate court, and unlike a pet trust, it doesn't require funding. Learn more: www.pettrustlawyer.com
ALWAYS PROVIDE CARE INSTRUCTIONS Though no one will ever take your place, a detailed care manual will help ensure that your animals continue to enjoy the same quality of life you've given them. For a modest fee, a Pet Protection Agreement® lets you provide instructions to your designated pet guardians.
You can also prepare your own care manual at no cost.
Include instructions about your pet's feeding, play and healthcare needs and preferences, temperament, personality and issues that require special attention. Provide vet records and contact information for caregivers (vets, groomers, pet sitters, dog walkers) too. Be sure to update your manual periodically.
LEARN MORE You can get more information in Atty. Rachel Hirschfeld's book, PETRIARCH: The Complete Guide to Financial and Legal Planning for a Pet’s Continued Care. Rachel is a founder of the New York County Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee.