Your dog is more than just an animal that lives in your home. He is a family member. A companion. A friend. And like a child, your pet relies on you for food, shelter, and happiness . . . But what happens to your pet when you die? Many people assume they will outlive their pet, but this is not always the case. Who will care for your cat after you’ve passed away? Who will walk your dog? Who will love them and adopt them? The decision is yours, and it is up to you to prepare for the unexpected.
What Happens to Your Pet When You Die?
So what happens to your pet when you die? First of all, don’t assume that a certain someone (your daughter, your best friend, your neighbor) will step forward and accept responsibility for your pet. Too many people believe this is the case and then, because they haven’t made formal arrangements, their beloved pet ends up in an animal shelter. If you want to ensure your pet will be given shelter, veterinary care, and lots of love, find someone who is ready and willing to give your pet a home. Choose someone who is prepared for the responsibility, familiar with your pet, and (most importantly) truly wants to adopt your pet.
Writing Your Pet Into Your Estate Plan
Informal preparations with your chosen caregiver are not the best way to guarantee your pet’s future. Instead, you need to discuss your pet with your attorney when preparing your estate plan. Your options include writing your pet into your will, a trust, or a power of attorney.
A will is satisfactory, but it’s important to note that a will doesn’t usually go into effect until weeks (and sometimes even months) after your death due to probate and court time. To ensure immediate care, you might want to create an additional legal document. Another option is a trust, which does allow for immediate care. You decide when your trust will go into effect and you decide what happens to your pet when you die. Plus, you can choose what will happen to your pet if you have a serious illness or disability. Finally, you could create a power of attorney, giving someone (your attorney-in-fact) the right to handle your affairs. Within the document, grant your attorney-in-fact the right to care for your pet.
Unfortunately, you can’t stipulate what sort of care you would like your pet to receive (daily walks, special treats, grooming, etc.), which is why it’s so important that you choose the right person at the start. In case your original caregiver backs out of the arrangement, you might want to designate a backup as well. Also consider leaving money to your chosen caregiver, noting that you would like the funds to go toward your pet’s care. Because your pet is considered property in the eyes of the law, you cannot leave your pet money directly, but you can give money and instructions to your chosen guardian.
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So what happens to your pet when you die? If you plan ahead with the help of an attorney, your pet will move into the loving home of the caregiver you have chosen. If you live in the southwest Missouri area and you would like to start planning for your pet’s future, contact the attorneys at Parks & Jones. We would be happy to help you work your pet’s future into your estate plan.
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