The message can arrive rather unexpectedly. “Would it be okay if I named you in my will as caretaker of my pets?”
It’s a question that can elicit shock, surprise, and a warm sense of honor. It’s not something that often comes up in daily conversation. But it is an important question to consider while you can.
What happens to your pet if you’re the first to arrive at Rainbow Bridge?
We agonize over the loss of a pet, even though we know that sad day is inevitable. Unfortunately, our pets can’t make plans for themselves in the case of our untimely demise. Given the commitment we make to provide for them in life, doesn’t it make sense to do the same in the event of our unexpected death?
Perhaps you’ve already thought to include instructions for pet care in your will. By default, care and guardianship will often pass to your spouse, partner, or good friend. But have you considered what you’d want in the unlikely event of an accident or disaster that claims the lives of both parties?
It’s not legally possible to leave money in your will directly to a pet
As callous as it may sound, pets are considered “property” in all 50 states. As a result, money left to a pet can easily end up being directed elsewhere. This does not mean you cannot make plans for pet care once you’ve gone to the great beyond.
The most common option is a simple pet care trust. This allows you to choose an trustee to administer your wishes and manage any funds you chose to leave for pet care. A pet care trust will normally address provisions for veterinary care, food, housing and choice of an administrator &/ or caretaker.
Pet care trusts are recognized in most states. They can be set up by an attorney, or as a do it yourself project using one of the many online resources. A properly prepared pet care trust may be your best insurance that your wishes are respected for the care of your pet if the worst happens.
Millions of pets are placed in shelters as a result of being overlooked during estate planning
It is estimated that more than 150,000 pets each year are left homeless when owners die. These animals often end up in shelters where they can be adopted or euthanized. A simple one page document can easily offer an alternative to this fate.
Pet care trusts are not your only option. You can leave your pet to someone named in your will. Your will can also specify money be set aside for pet care by naming a caretaker. Another option is to specify a non-profit organization which operate a program to provide or find homes for pets who unexpectedly become homeless.
Any of these choices, hard as they may be, will be easier on your pet than the limbo that can result from your sudden and unexpected disappearance from this earth.
Ponder the possibilities before you arrive at Rainbow Bridge
It’s worthwhile to give some thought to how your pet would be happiest should something unexpectedly remove you from their life. While we treat them as family members, in the eyes of the law, our pets currently have no more legal rights than any inanimate asset you own.
The least we can do is establish a plan which helps ensure their remaining time is as comfortable as possible.