Pets have a special place in many people’s lives, providing comfort, emotional support, and unconditional love. And for most people, pets are more than just animals, they’re part of the family. But what happens to your pet if you become disabled, sick, or die? Unfortunately, each year millions of animals are abandoned, left at animal shelters, or euthanized after their owners become incapacitated or pass away. Let’s make sure your beloved pet doesn’t become a sad statistic. Securing your pet’s future takes just a few simple steps.
If You Become Disabled or Hospitalized
Like it or not, accidents are a part of life. Maybe it’s a fall off a ladder, a car crash, or unforeseen illness that lands you in the hospital or extended care facility. Whatever the emergency, your pet still needs daily care, even if you’re not home. Follow these tips to ensure your animal is well cared for no matter what:
- Post an emergency pet card by your front door.
This notice states what kind and how many pets live in your home. In case of emergency, first responders and others will know there are animals in the house needing rescue and care.
- Carry an “animal emergency” card in your wallet.
Include your pet’s name, age, a description, medication lists, special needs, and any necessary care instructions. A photo of the pet may also be helpful. Also remember to list the names and contact numbers of at least two people who can care for your pet in an emergency.
- Make a pet info document.
If an alternate caregiver needs to take over, a pet information sheet will disclose everything they need to know about your animal. Include details like preferred pet food brand, how much and how often to feed, and location of supplies like food, favorite toys, litter, leashes, crates, and waste bags. Also, list the veterinarian’s address and phone number, medications, allergies, and any other medical conditions. Keep this paper in a central location where it can be easily found, such as on the refrigerator or near pet food and supplies.
If You Die Before Your Pet
Since you love your pet like family, it makes sense to treat them like relatives, even when it comes to estate planning. Despite the tall tales of multimillion-dollar cats and dogs living in lavish mansions, animals cannot inherit money or property in a will. But you can secure your pet’s future by setting up a pet trust.
A pet trust allocates money, assigns a caregiver, and clearly spells out how your pet will be cared for. Most pet trusts go into effect after the owner dies, but pet trusts can also be enacted while you are still living should the need arise. Here are some specific details to think about and discuss when meeting with an attorney to set up your pet trust:
- Assign a caregiver.
Depending on the age of your pet and their life expectancy, this could be a lengthy commitment. Be sure to ask someone responsible who’s willing to take excellent care of your animal for the long haul.
- Appoint a trustee.
While the caregiver handles the day-to-day care of your animal, a trustee takes care of the trust finances. According to the instructions you set up, the trustee disburses money to the pet’s new owner, and has decision-making power over fund usage. Ideally, you should keep the caretaker and trustee separate to avoid any temptation for money misuse.
- Calculate future pet costs.
Think about the age of your pet and how long you expect them to live. Then figure out a yearly cost estimate for food, vet check-ups, vaccines, medications, and supplies. Don’t forget to set aside extra for emergency vet visits, boarding or pet sitter fees, pet beds, and possible future medical care. Most pet trusts are open until a pet dies or reaches age 21, whichever happens first. But if you have a pet with a long life expectancy, you can extend the life of the trust accordingly.
- Give detailed pet care instructions.
Since animals can’t tell us what they like or want, most pet trusts include in-depth information about how to best care for your specific animal. Tell a future owner about a favorite food, toy, snack, and sleeping arrangement. Don’t forget to talk about any unique likes/dislikes, too.
Pets add a new dimension of love and joy to our lives, but it’s easy to forget these furry friends when it comes to estate planning. At BB&C, we don’t want to see your beloved animal fall into the wrong hands or go unattended. Whether you already have an estate plan or need to start from scratch, we can help you ensure a protected future for all of your loved ones, even the four-legged kind. Contact Cecelia Neihouser Harper at 765-637-9175.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.