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While a family member or friend may be willing to care for your cat or dog or cockatoo, that’s a commitment not to be taken lightly. Aside from the cost of maintaining a pet, there is daily care, and for any number of reasons you may not have someone you can depend on to take on this huge commitment.

We all need to stop and take the time to organize important paperwork before a crisis occurs, including estate planning for our pets. A recent article inEveryday Health, titled “Pet Power of Attorney: Make Plans for Rover Before You’re Covered in Clover“, reports that the Humane Society of the United States is recommending that pet owners pick two people who will serve as temporary pet caregivers in the event that an emergency arises. These two caregivers should have easy access to your home, written instructions on feeding and care, the contact information of your veterinarian, and knowledge of your permanent plan for the pets. Your neighbors, friends and relatives should also be made aware of the emergency caregivers.

There are formal options for individuals who want to ensure quality and continued care for their pets. Some people include such plans for their animals in their wills. However, these provisions take effect only when you die. It might take days or weeks for these plans to be carried out depending on when the will is read. A power of attorney, on the other hand, will authorize someone to conduct some or all of your affairs for you while you are incapacitated—including care for your pets.

Also, a pet trust is a legal document that designates a trustee who will hold funds “in trust” to pay the caregiver for all of the needs of your pet, and can provide for your pet anytime you are unable to do so. The ASPCA suggests setting up the trust with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning as various states have differing laws. Make directions in your pet trust very specific. Detail the exact brand of food your animal prefers (quantity and frequency of feeding), its daily activity habits, health issues and anything else you think will maintain consistency in its quality of life.

The article also has this advice:

  • Keep tabs on designated pet caregivers in case they move or their situation changes and they are no longer able to commit to being your pet’s guardian;
  • Choose at least one alternate caregiver;
  • When creating a trust, you’ll have to identify the pet to prevent fraud. Have labeled photos and microchip your pets (it’s fast, painless, and easy!); and
  • Designate a beneficiary to receive any remaining money not used by the pet trust.

Your pets are important to you, and you devote some portion of your day to keeping them healthy and content. Spend some time now to plan for when you are no longer able to care for them so your pets will always enjoy their lives and have quality care.

ReferenceEveryday Health (April 15, 2014) “Pet Power of Attorney: Make Plans for Rover Before You’re Covered in Clover

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.