Don’t Forget Your Pets!

Just as you would plan for the care of your human babies, you need a plan for your fur babies!!

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It’s SUMMER!! For many people this means road trips to National Parks, weekends in the mountains, or hopping a plane to explore a foreign city with your family and friends. The warm weather and relaxed schedules spark a little wanderlust in all of us. Pack your bags and lock up the house – you’re out of here!!!

But wait! What about that furry family member that gets car sick and prefers his own poufy feather bed to the thin nylon of your tent in the middle of the night? Unfortunately, our four-legged friends are not always able to join us on our adventures. Many pet owners have arrangements set up for just these occasions. Maybe the neighbor is checking in on him. Maybe he’s got a reservation at the new posh pet spa downtown where they only serve the finest kibble. No worries there; you’ve got it covered. …Right?

Assuming everything goes as planned, you are most certainly a great pet parent. But what if something goes wrong? What if, while enjoying some fresh mountain air, you have an accident and are unable to get to or care for your loyal companion? Your neighbor, who has been looking in on your little fuzz ball, is moving out next week. The pet spa is fabulous, but it is pricey and booked solid for the next couple months. What if nobody picks up your little guy from the pet hotel because you’ve been delayed and can’t get there yourself? He may wind up at a shelter which is far less than ideal and is not at all necessary if you have the right legal documents in place.

A short term pet guardianship document can address a potential delay if you should become unable to return to or care for your pet for a specific time period. This list of caregivers should contain the names and numbers for individuals who have the ability to visit your home on a daily basis to care for your pet or take the pet into his or her own home for a few days. The more options the better because not everyone picks up their phone or checks their voicemail regularly.

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Another legal document that is important to have in place is a long term pet guardianship document. This would address continuing care for your pet in the case of your death. Sadly, many pet owners do not plan for their death and as a result, many animals end up discarded to shelters for lack of an alternative long term care option. But merely identifying who these long term guardians might be is not enough. A conversation should be had with each one where the guardian agrees to the potential role and understands your expectations of what you want for your pet if you were not there. Both of these documents should be given to anyone caring for your pet for even a short time such as a pet sitter or the pet hotel. You may want to distribute the list to helpful neighbors or nearby friends who could also facilitate the transfer if need be.

Now, what if your sassy striped tabby is accustomed to an elevated style of living? Should your long term guardian be saddled with providing this level of care simply because he or she agreed to provide the alternative to a shelter? Maybe not, but what if you want to ensure that your princess continues to sleep on only the softest of feather beds and drinks from a diamond encrusted bowl? Or maybe you love your pet very much and provide a perfectly reasonable lifestyle for her. Even then, you may want to leave money for the long term guardian of your pet because you want to ensure that it is never at issue.

No problem! Establish a pet trust.

A pet trust is a way to leave money to be used specifically for the care of your pet. You, as Trustor, set up a pet trust and fund assets into this trust. A Successor Trustee is named who can manage the assets you have funded into the trust after your death. This ensures sure that, not only does your pet enjoy the level of care you choose, but also that the money in the trust is spent only on your pet. The structure is up to you. Monthly, annual or as-needed payments may be made by the Successor Trustee to your guardian.

To many people, a pet is more than just an animal; it is a family member. Creating a plan for your pet can provide a comforting sense of security and the knowledge that your beloved animal will be cared for no matter what happens. Call our office and your Wills & Wellness estate attorney will be happy to assist you in creating peace of mind with short and long term pet guardianship documents and pet trusts.

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