If you are not there for your pet

Your pets need care if you suddenly die or become incapacitated. Estate planning should help assure that your pet has a home, veterinary care, food and love when you are unable to provide care.

Emergency precautions    

Designate at least two responsible relatives or friends as caregivers if there is an emergency. They should have the house keys, feeding and care instructions and contact information for your veterinarian and each other. Carry an emergency wallet card with contact information for these caregivers.

Your neighbors, friends and relatives should also know about your pets and their names. Furnish them with them with contact information for your emergency caregivers.

Post removable in case of emergency notices identifying your pets on your front and back doors. Permanent or hard-to remove stickers may be ignored. Even worse, first-responders may take risks because of outdated information.

Permanent care

Decide whether you want your pets to go to one person or several individuals. Consider family members and friends who know your pet, took care of pets, and will act in their best interest. Name alternate caregivers in case your first choices are unable or unwilling to assume this responsibility.

Discuss these responsibilities with your designated caregivers. Keep in touch with them to assure they are willing and able to care for your pets.

If you are unable to select a permanent caregiver, prepare instructions on temporary care. Your will should contain useful and reasonable instructions for your executor and authority to provide funds to care for and find a new home for your pet.

Wills and trusts

A will may contain instructions on the care of your pet, but it may take time for it to undergo probate and any legal challenges.

A trust is another document which can assure immediate care for your pet if you die or become incapacitated. Trusts can set aside money for pet care, exclude assets from probate for care and assure there is pet care during a long disability. Trusts, however, may be costly to administer and controversial because of the amount of money being set aside.

Inform executors

Your executor should have copies of your will, trusts, instructions on temporary and permanent pet care and contact information for your caregivers. Provide your caregivers with copies of your pets’ veterinary records and information on their behavior and diets.

Powers of attorney

These documents authorize your agent to handle your personal and financial affairs if you become incapacitated. You can authorize agents to care for your pets, spend money for their care and place them with appropriate caregivers.

Attorneys can provide options on this matter. They can also prepare documents to help assure pet care.