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Estate Planning for Pets: Peace of Mind to Pet Owners

Dog and cat estate planning for pets

Estate planning can be an uncomfortable conversation for families. Many details need to be considered, from beneficiaries for real property and financial assets to a guardian for minors and health care surrogates. In the conversation, you also need to include a plan for your pets.

Who will care for your pets?

They are a part of your family. You spend time and money caring for them to give them a wonderful life. But what happens if you are suddenly unable to care for them? It could be a temporary situation, like a short-term hospital stay, or a more permanent one due to death or a change in living conditions, such as moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The editor of The New Barker magazine, Anna Cooke, has seen situations where estate planning has made all the difference for a pet to receive proper care. Unfortunately, she has also witnessed the opposite. A pet who is an afterthought has an uncertain future and can end up surrendered to animal services.

When a loved one passes, families are grieving and overwhelmed. There are many responsibilities and arrangements to be made. Pets can rapidly get lost in the mix if there is no plan for them. As a result, they may not receive the care you would have wished. 

Coronavirus and emergencies

Estate planning for pets can also help protect them when an emergency arises. Your plan can be a “go to” for family and friends in a short-term situation. The global pandemic has emphasized this need. From an illness and trip to the ER to an unexpected accident, pet owners can achieve peace of mind by making decisions in advance. These include temporary and permanent caregivers and the financial means to provide care for your pet.      

Estate planning for pets — where do you start?

Talk with your family and friends. Determine who is willing and able to care for your pets in short-term and long-term scenarios. These conversations are even more critical if you live alone. Ask essential questions like — “does someone have a key to my house in the event of an emergency” and “would I want my pet to go to a rescue group, family member, or friend when I pass?”

Also, have a conversation with your family members who are pet owners. Inquire about the wishes they have for their pets in the event of an emergency or due to death. If you find yourself caring for their pet, you will be better equipped and ready to carry out their wishes.

How can a pet trust help you?

Florida has a pet trust law, which allows for creating a trust to benefit your pet should something happen to you. It is a legal arrangement that details your pet’s care, including a caregiver, medical care, and financial support. It leaves little to chance.

In The New Barker article “Prepare for the Worst and Hope for the Best,” retired attorney Dionne Blaesing, Esq. says, “As a stand-alone trust, the Pet Trust allows its trustee to have enforcement power comparable to a human trust beneficiary.”

In speaking with Cooke, she emphasized, “Consider a law firm that understands the ins and outs of pet trusts in your area. Just as important, consider who would be a reliable trustee among family, friends, and perhaps business associates to oversee your pet trust.”

If you have questions about the best way to protect your pets, please contact us. Informed, thoughtful, and thorough estate planning will help to relieve stress on your loved ones — and protect your pets. 

The above is intended to inform firm clients and friends about recent developments in the law, including analysis of statutes and new case decisions. This update should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, and readers should not act upon the information contained herein without seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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