Pet Care After Death
Pets have become important members of the family. But what would happen to your pets if they outlived you? With some simple pre-planning, you can ensure that your pets are always cared for, even after you’re gone.
Carry a pet alert card in your wallet/purse.
If something happens to you, this card will alert authorities that you have a pet at home. Include your address, pet name, type of animal, and emergency contact information on the card.
Identify a caregiver or two. Talk with everyone you trust about caring for your pet after death.
It’s a good idea to have a primary and a secondary caregiver. To avoid misunderstandings, consider getting commitments in writing. Keep in mind that over time, people’s circumstances and priorities change. Make sure that the arrangements you have made are still the best option for your pet.
Create an information packet that contains helpful information about caring for your pet. Include details about:
- Food preferences
- Medical conditions and medications
- Veterinary information
- Vaccination and medical records
- Daily rituals (feedings, exercise, potty times, sleep habits, grooming)
- Behavioral information (how is your pet around other animals, adults, and children)
Provide your pet caregivers with a copy of the information packet, and keep an easily accessible copy with your own important papers.
Provide funds to help care for your pet.
If you can, it’s a good idea to provide funds for the person(s) who commits to taking care of your pet. When planning how much money to set aside and how to handle the future care of your pet, consider the following:
- Have a third person control the money to ensure the caregiver is using it appropriately.
- Choose the funding option that makes the most sense for you. For example: bank accounts, life insurance policies, annuity contracts, or will/trust provisions.
- What is your pet’s age and lifestyle?
- Does your pet have any special needs?
- Provide for the expense of your pet’s burial or cremation.
- Setting aside too much money, using money as motivation to convince someone to be a potential caregiver, and giving all of the money to the caregiver all at once should be avoided, as this often creates problems.
Consider a formal arrangement, such as a pet trust.
The best way to make sure your wishes are fulfilled is to work with an attorney to create a will, trust, or other document. It is a good idea to include your pet in your will; however, there are some limitations that could delay when your instructions are carried out. Because of this, you may want to explore a pet trust.
Unlike a will, a pet trust can provide for your pet immediately – not only in death, but in the event of illness or disability. With a pet trust, you determine when the trust becomes effective. When you create a trust for your pet, you set aside money to be used for the care your pet and you specify a trustee to control the funds. Because a pet trust is relatively expensive to administer and maintain, this option may not be for everyone.
Animals who outlive their owners face uncertain fates. Under the best circumstances, a family member or friend will care for your pet. The Humane Society created the fact sheet, “Providing for your pet’s future without you,” to help ensure that your wishes for your pet’s long-term care won’t be forgotten, misconstrued, or ignored.
"Being in the financial planning industry for over 35 years and focusing on end of life planning, we’ve become accustomed to seeing first-hand what families go through after the death of a loved one. Many times, there is added pain and frustration because they just don’t know what to do." Michelle Braddock, Co-Founder, My Life and Wishes Inc.
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