Friday, June 28, 2013
Despite the fact that many pet owners consider their pet a part of the family, only 17% of dog or cat owners have taken steps to provide for their pet following their death. Many pets end up in shelters following their owner’s death due to the false assumption that a friend or relative will take care of them.
Legal options to provide for pets following an owner’s death or incapacitation include stand-alone pet trusts and Pet Protection Agreements. Pet owners should not rely on their wills to provide for their pet, as the will can be held up for weeks in probate before taking effect.
Pet trusts are the way to go for those pet owners willing to leave a substantial sum of money for their pets. Pet trusts cost over $1,500 to set up and make sense for owners leaving $50,000 or more. Pet owners can specify exactly how to care for their pet in a pet trust, including when to visit the vet and what food to eat.
A cheaper alternative to a pet trust is a Pet Protection Agreement, which serves as a contract between pet owners and designated guardians. Pet Protection Agreements cost less than $80 on LegalZoom.com and can include details about how a pet should be taken care of as well as any money a pet owner wants to designate for care.
Pet owners should calculate the money needed to care for their pet by tallying “the animal’s food, grooming, veterinary and other basic costs, and multiply[ing] that amount by its remaining life span.” Minimum measures a pet owner can take include finding a temporary caregiver in case of emergency and making a file containing the pet’s food, medicine, and veterinarian information.
Please see my book, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs, for more information.
See Eleanor Laise, Put a Plan in Place to Ensure Pets’ Care, Kiplinger, June 2013.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.