No one likes to confront the idea of our own mortality. To make matters worse, thinking of what might happen to our loved pets (so much they become our kids), is stressful and can be anxiety-filled.
Today, we are going to turn things around for you. Planning is simply the best medicine when it comes to the unknown. Planning your furkid’s future will allow to really enjoy them now and to know that they are safe in the future.
But how? Is it simple enough to contact your next of kin and have a will?
In this article, we are going to look at some of the planning that you should be doing for your own estate. As well, we will be looking at what planning your should be doing with your Austin pet sitter, dog walker, kennel or boarding facility.
But first, a question…
If you were to die today, what would happen to your furkids?
I’m sorry if this might be a morbid question to ask, or if this gives you some discomfort and anxiety. However, it is a thought that, without a real answer, will create those same levels of fear and anxiety, if not more, for your furkid at the time of your passing.
Think about this, according to 2nd Chance 4 Pets (great organization), over 500,000 pets are orphaned each year due to the death or disability of their human companion. That is a staggering statistic, and something that you, as a responsible pet owner, can change today.
1 – Start thinking about your furkid’s future
As a pet owner, one that cares enough to hire a pet sitter, or dog walker, or to even read an article on planning your furkid’s future after your passing, it makes sense to assume YOU know what is best for your furkid. I’m sure you can agree with that as well.
To start planning your furkid’s future after your passing, you need to start asking questions about your pet, his or her needs and what you want for them in the future.
- What veterinarian would like to be used?
- What pet sitter, pet visitor, or pet nanny would you like?
- What foods/diet would you like for your furkid?
- What exercise needs would you like followed?
- At the time of their passing, what plans would you like made?
- Whom would be most trusted with you as a new guardian or caregiver?
- Will you need a trustee to oversee these issues? And, whom?
- What funds would be needed to comfortably meet these needs?
All of these questions, when thoughtfully handled and answered, will provide a plan for your furkid’s future that you can be happy knowing are met.
With that said, just asking these pet care questions will start to calm your stress about your frukid. And that is a great thing, right?
2 – Plan your own needs, records and financials
Now that you have started to think about your pet’s future, future caregivers, making sure your furkid is going to happy and safe…maybe we should make sure that your own planning is correct and complete.
According to LegalZoom, approximately 55% of American adults DO NOT have a will or other estate plan in place. And while this number might not seem staggering, if you look at Austin’s population according to the National Census in 2010 was nearly 800,000 people; 78%, or 624,000 being adults. From this math, we can assume that over 300,000 adults living in Austin do not have a will, nor estate planning completed.
Potentially, this also means that 300,000 pets, cats, dogs, fish, birds, horses…they could all be homeless without instructions as to their care. Horrible thoughts.
You can change this with a few documents that will have your estate and your wishes planned and prepared.
Last will and testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that is created by a person with property instructions meant to be taken at the time of their deaths. A simple “will” would deal with, historically, estates and property, while “testament” deals more with actions of the estate.
While mentioning your pet’s new guardian here, along with care is a good idea, it might not be iron-clad method of naming a new caregiver.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney is a document giving legal power to another person, on that person’s behalf, to conduct various actions and representations. These come in two forms – financial and healthcare.
A living will is a document that contains advanced medical directives, which detail your life-wishes concerning long-term medical issues. Included should be directives for physical care in certain circumstances (coma, advanced illness, trauma, etc), and your reasons why (belief system, religious reasons, etc).
List of contacts
A list of contacts is simply a list of people or organizations important to you that should be notified at the time of your passing. These can include:
- Tax advisors/Accountants
- Utility providers
- Service providers(daily, weekly or monthly maintenance services)
- Pet sitters, dog walkers, house sitters
- Executor of your estate
- Interim caregivers, services and help
- Heirs, next of kin and family
This list may not need to be executed immediately, but by having the list available to emergency personnel, as well as your executor of estate or family, you will help them with the stress of finding those contacts.
List digital logins and assets
Much like contacting the electric company, insurance agents or heirs, allowing your executor the ability to login to certain sites and entities will ease this sad time. This list, with logins and passwords, is very sensitive. As such, it should be left with a trusted person or entity – or only your executor should be given instructions on retrieving this list upon your passing.
Funeral and burial arrangements
If you can afford to arrange and pay for your funeral and burial costs before your passing, it will not only make this one less item for your family and executor to handle, but it will also guarantee you get what you wished. Everything from the method of showing, cremation choices, burial/plot location, and even your flowers can be outlined.
If you having minor children, your will will need to create a trust and a trustee for each, for money left to them. Other trusts could include charitable trusts and pet trusts; we’ll cover these later.
3 – Decide on your pet’s possible new guardian
Sitting down and thinking of who your furkid should go to might seem simple. You just have to ask yourself one simple question:
Who do you trust that your furkid will be happy, healthy and live a great life with?
The only issue with this is that you might run into issues with their needs, trying to meet your pet’s needs.
- The person might have an allergy
- The person might have young children
- The person might not be able to physically or financially
- The person might have combative/territorial pets
And, prepare yourself, but that person, the one that always looks for your furkid to pet, play and participate with, might not want to be a new caregiver to your furkid. All the love in the world cannot force someone to want that.
The best way to look at possible new caregivers is to start by looking at their past; are they a current pr previous pet owner? You should also ask if that person has a bond with your furkid already; something that would DEFINITELY aid in their becoming a new pet caregiver.
Finally, their location or area becomes a final concern. Your pet, especially those that are active and social outdoors, most likely have favorite spots to play and exist. It would make sense to keep them in those areas.
4 – Decide on specific wishes and services for your furkid
Previously, we looked at what your pet needs, furkid’s favorites and pet services were. Some questions might have seemed very common and not to needed for a will or trust. However, for the new caregiver of your furkid, we need a list of your needs and desires for your pet.
Start by listing the professional services you use and want to keep using. These include your vet, groomer, dog walker, pet sitting expert, dog walker, kennel or boarder. These are professionals that you and your pet have trusted.
Next, start listing the exercise and social activities that have become habits or even necessities for you and your furkid. Your pet trustee, interim petcare provider as well as your furkid’s new mom and dad should be able to keep these happening.
Finally, list foods and dietary needs of your pet. These can be general dry food recommendations, as well as special needs.
5 – Have an open and honest conversation with new guardians
Be prepared during this step! Why?
You are going to be sitting down to plan your pet’s caregiving with someone who may, or may not, want to. In fact, during the conversation, you might find out that they have never even liked your furkid; it is a terrible reaction, but it happens.
However, as negative as the above might seem, it also removes someone who would not have given your furkid what you would have hoped for them – a loving, warm and happy environment.
Now is the time to verify that the list of needs, wishes and specific pet services can be met. This is the time to confirm every need you and your furkid has.
And, here is the truth…
If you aren’t comfortable with that person being your furkid’s mom or dad, how will they be comfortable with it?
If this person is not right for your pet, then move on to the next.
6 – Have a pet sitter or pet boarding planned for the interim
Some wills are not immediately enacted. And, sometimes, everyone must be contacted – your new pet caregiver might take some time to contact. This means that your furkid might be without care for a day or two without proper care…and that is a day or two too long!
The simplest method of setting up a quick and efficient method of seamless help in the transition during your passing is to talk to your pet care provider, your estate executor and to leave this information in plain site. Basically, contact your pet sitter or pet boarding professional, and find out what services might be prepaid, allowanced or prepared. Make these instructions known to an executor, as well as your new furkid’s caregiver and then leave information (these contacts) on a refrigerator or cabinet face.
Not every pet is a cat or dog or fish. Exotic and large pets will require specialized care in a transition. For instance, not just anyone can stable your horse for a week just out of the blue.
7 – Include basic pet provisions in your will
Pets are considered property in most wills. This seems very unfair, considering our pets are our kids. We raise them, feed them, care for their health and we love them.
Under law, though, pets are an item. In wills, it makes sense to declare that a pet will reside with a new caregiver.
How can we, as furkid moms and dads, accurately and responsibly transition the care of our furkids to another? Enter the pet trust.
Know some Texas law on trusts
For all of our local Texas friends, you should know the exact law when it comes to Texas property laws concerning pet trusts. For this, we look to Tex. Prop. Code § 112.037 (Year of Enactment: 2005).
In summary of the law, a trust may be created for an animal(s)’s care that is alive during the trustor’s (also referred to as ‘settlor’ or ‘grantor’) lifetime. The pet trust terminates if the animal dies, or when the death of the last surviving animal covered by the animal trust.
Other pet trust law from around the country
Other states vary in their declaration and interpretation of pet trusts.
Some states place limits and boundaries on the time a trust may stay in effect. For instance, Montana and New Jersey both hold a trust to only 21 years. While in Washington, the trust exists until all animals named in it passes, or 150 years!
There are also limits to the type of pet covered in trusts. Michigan, for instance, designates domestic animals as being the only animals able to be named in a trust. While Colorado goes a step further, and states that a trust terminates at the time of all pets’s deaths, including those in gestation.
For a full list of the U.S. state’s statues and laws concerning pet trusts, consult this article for the ASPCA on pet trust laws around the US.
8 – Create a pet trust for maximum action
A pet trust is a legal document or arrangement to provide pet care for a pet after its owner dies. Basically, this document sets aside money or other property, for use for the pet by designated caregiver.
Depending on state laws, a pet trust can continue for the life of the animal, or 21 years; whichever occurs first. Some states also allow for a pet trust to continue for the life of the pet, without regard for the maximum 21 year duration.
For you, a pet trust allows you to see your pet living in financial comfort, with the person you wish them to. By declaring both the property that your furkid will receive, as well as the caregiver of your furkid, you legally have solidified whom will be caring for your furkid.
9 – Talk to a legal professional about your plans
One of the final steps in this whole process is to verify your documentation, and to make sure that everything will be legal and incontestable. To do this, consult a legal professional; specifically one specializing in estate planning.
While you can create these documents yourself and use a notary public to confirm them, hiring legal counsel might be a better, and safer, path to take. These professionals can recommend changes, instruct you on the requirements of your state and area, as well as instruct you on additional requirements to make your pet safe in the end.
10 – Relax knowing your pet is much safer
You’ve planned out your wishes, thought long and hard about your furkid’s caregiver, talked to them, consulted a legal professional and had your will, trusts and pet trust set up…now what?
Now you can relax. You have just done something as responsible as cleaning your cat’s litterbox, or taking your dog to the vet.
Pet care after we pass might seem like a non-issue to those who don’t have pets. But when you do have a pet, they become more than that…they become family. And, so, why not make sure that their safety and happiness is in order for their future?
Each year, just under 500,000 pets are orphaned due to owner death, injury or disability. Don’t let your furkid be one of those numbers.
Pet care-givers, wills and future plans
Today, I hope you learned how easy it is to secure your pet’s happiness and health in the event of your passing. By preparing, planning and then executing those plans in a smart way, your furkid will find itself in a loving home.
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