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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Who Will Care For Your Pet If Something Happens To You?

By Peter J. Gilbert, Esq.

Many people own and care for animals, but to be honest, it’s pretty common for people to overlook the need to plan for them after their death. It’s not surprising that more and more people are recognizing that taking care of their pets is an integral part of their own estate plan. Most of the time, a person just assumes that their children or a friend, will take the pet into their home, but that may be an overly-optimistic plan.  Instead, it might make better sense for animal owners to spend a little time with their estate planning lawyer to put plans in place for the animal’s long-term care. It’s not just about cats and dogs, birds and other domesticated animals that depend on you. Imagine a stable of horses – what’s going to happen to your investment if you’re not there for them?

The methods for setting up this kind of plan can vary.  You and your attorney may feel that it’s reasonable to simply outline your wishes in the will.  On the other hand, you may prefer to create a pet trust that not only lays out your wishes but also funds them. This money would be used for food, vet services, and other needs as you estimate they will be needed for the lifespan of your animal(s).  Some animal owners also choose to include a small stipend for the person who takes on the responsibility of caring for the animal.  This is a personal decision, however, and not a necessity.

Probably the most important aspect of estate planning for animals is to choose a guardian.  This is the person or people who will care for your animal(s) if you die or become incapacitated.  It’s really important to talk to this person in advance and ensure that he or she is willing to take on the responsibility.  You wouldn’t want to leave your animal(s) to someone who resented or mistreated them.  One approach is to create a reciprocal agreement with a friend in which you both agree to take the other’s animals should the need arise.

Finally, make sure that your friends and family are aware of your plans.  That way, your animal(s) can get to their new home right away, without either being left alone or ending up in a different family than you intended.  

For National Pet Week, make sure your furry friends are protected! For more information or to learn how to set up a plan for your pets, call us at 215-997-9773. 

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