Pet Wills, Trusts and After Care!







Gram and I are sitting here on the patio in what we can call a most gorgeous Florida day. Fall is in the air, the humidity has fallen and the wind is blowing. It is just perfect.

Gram has had a few close calls health wise within this last month and so our thoughts are turned toward her cats (ugh) and who will care for them should she become disabled or not be here. Yes, I do have a grandpa, but he is not too interested in caring for the cats. Oh, don't get me wrong, he cares for them, it is just that he is not suited to be a cat daddy. Gram need outside help and so with that thought in mind we came up with this article.

Most of us do not spend too much time thinking about our pet’s care after we have gone on or become disabled and cannot care for them. We all seem to live in a world of “that’s not going to happen to me.”

Unfortunately, we do die or become disabled and we do have the fore thought to leave a will or trust for our loved ones, the human kind, but seldom give a thought to our beloved pets.

Having reached an age, where it is time to get my house in order, I have been thinking about my cats and what would happen to them, should I pass on while they are still alive. Granted I have a husband and children that could and would, I am certain, see that they were cared for.

However, I have managed to spoil them rather badly and one cat, my Boots, is a special needs critter that requires a special female touch, as he does not like males very much. So finding the right person(s) to take over the task I have started, is going to require some searching and decision making, which I have already begun.

In the process of doing so I have come across some thoughts and information that may help you in providing for the care of your beloved pet(s) once you are not capable of caring for them.

Many of us are lucky enough to have a friend or relative to care for our guys, but what if you do not have someone?

Yes, you can leave your pet to someone with plenty of money to provide for its care in your will. Great idea, but what if that person takes the money and puts the pet in a shelter once you are gone. There is nothing you can do about it, as you are not here.

The first thing you should do, is talk to the person you are considering and make certain they understand what you want for your pet and that they are willing to carry forth your desires. It does not hurt to have a back up person in the wings, just in case the first person backs out.

You can work with an estate-planning attorney or you can use a standard will. If you do not have or want an attorney, I have found that www.ItsMyLife.com has for a very nominal price legal wills and trust agreements that are legal in most states except Louisiana.

They also have a special pet “letter of wishes” in which you can detail exactly how you want your pet taken care of. The letter is not legally binding, but gives information guidelines to the person you have chosen to care for your pet.

Another source of information that I have found is www.info@2ndchance4pets.org this organization will send you information on how to plan for the lifetime care for your pets. This organization is a non-profit advocacy group that focuses their entire efforts on helping people reduce the number of pets euthanized due to the death or disability of the owners.

What can you do if you have no one to designate as a caregiver? Discuss the situation with you veterinarian, local pet sitter groups and your local animal welfare organizations. They will be able to help you find the right person to care for your pet should you not be able to.

It is possible to appoint a group of several individuals, such as your veterinarian, family members and friends to form a “animal care panel” in which they would find a proper caregiver for your pet. The panel could advertise in the local newspapers and contact the local animal welfare organizations.

What is a pet trust and how does it work? A pet trust is a legal procedure you may use to make certain your pet is protected should you die or become disabled.

How does it work? You choose a person you trust or a bank, as a trustee and provide them with enough money or property to financially care for your pet as you have given instructions. The trustee is bound by duty to oversee that your pet it taken care of by the person designated by you.

What types of trusts are there? There actually are two types of pet trusts. The first type is called the “traditional pet trust.” This is where the “trustee” makes certain that the person taking care of your pet does exactly what you have designated they do, in regard to caring for your per and the trustee pays the expenses.

The second type is a “statutory pet trust,” where the pet owner designates a certain amount of money to be set aside for the care of the pet and the state fills in the gaps regarding the care. The pet owner does not give any instructions as to what is to be done with the money.

Which trust is better? The traditional pet trust is best, as you can control the care of your pet, by listing the instructions and the trustee will make certain your instructions are carried out and the bills are paid for.

Where can I get a pet trust? You can call an attorney who specializes in estate planning or you can go on line on contact such businesses as www.petguardian.com which provides a pet trust program. These businesses however, do not provide legal advice.

There are lifetime care organizations that will take your pet upon your death or disablement for a fee. My favorite pet sanctuary is www.bestfriends.org they can take your pet and provide the best of care and/or give your help in finding a place nearest to you. Also you can contact www.petguardian.com and www.2ndchance4pets.org for a list of lifetime care programs and information. Here are some questions you should ask:

  • How long have they been in business? How is the program funded? What happens to the pet if they are no longer in business? What experience do the caregivers have in regard to taking care of the pets? What is the pet to human ratio? What kind of care does the pet get on a daily basis?
  • What is your financial commitment and how much do you pay in advance?
  • What is the condition of the facility? Are the pets kept in cages or are there facilities for them to have free movement?
  • Can you talk and contact references?
  • Are pets adopted out or do they remain there permanently? If they are adopted out, what are the requirements of the people adopting the pet? Do they follow up on adoptions and will they take the pet back if it does not work out?
  • What kind of veterinary care is provided? Do licensed vets or interns attend to the pets? Do the pets have regular examinations? How are medical emergencies met? What is the policy on euthanasia?
  • What kind of food are the pets fed and how often? Will they accommodate special diets?
  • Will they take pets of any age and medical condition? Will they honor burial requests?

    This is just a birds eye view of things you should be considering should your pet outlive you. Once you have decided on a particular plan, review it often and if your pet dies and you replace it, make certain you change your paperwork to include the new pet.

    I know this is not something we like to think about, but if you really care for your pet, advance planning is really the thing to do for your peace of mind and for the health and welfare of your pet. Their lifetime of service and love is truly worth something.