Your pets are like family. Anybody who has ever held a birthday “paw-ty” for their dog or included their cat in a holiday family portrait knows this to be true.
That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place to make sure your four-legged family members are cared for should something happen to you.
We know. When it comes to planning, it’s much more fun to dream up an epic road trip with Fido or to make that appointment to get a tattoo of Fluffy on your arm. But let’s get real for a moment. Because experts from the Humane Society are saying it’s a good idea to have a trust set up for your pets, and to also include them in your will.
Here are five steps pet parents can take to make sure their animals are in good hands in the event of an emergency:
1. Designate Two Friends As Emergency Caregivers
Should something happen to you, have at least two responsible friends or relatives who can temporarily care for your pets, suggests the Humane Society. Make sure they have keys to get into your home, as well as instructions for how to care for your pet. These instructions should include information about medication, contact info for the veterinarian, your pet’s feeding schedule, their favorite toys, their temperament, etc. In your wallet, carry an “alert card” that lists the names and contact information for your emergency caregivers.
2. Set Up A Trust
This will help provide care for your pet should something happens to you. You can set it up to go into effect not only if you die, but also if you become severely ill, explains the Humane Society. To create a trust for your pet, you can set aside money to be used for his or her care and designate a trustee to control the funds. The Humane Society notes that a trust can be written to exclude certain assets from the probate process so the funds can be freed up to help pay for pet care costs.
3. Include Your Pet In Your Will
While it may seem obvious that a close friend or relative would take care of your pet, and you’ve even set money aside for them to do so, the Humane Society advises that you set up a formal agreement.
“Work with an attorney to draw up a special will, trust, or other document to provide for the care and ownership of your pet, as well as the money necessary to care for her,” the Humane Society says. There are several advantages to putting your pets in your will, including the ability to keep bonded pets together. A main reason you should include your pets in your will? Pets without guardians could be euthanized if there’s no room in shelters and no immediate options to find them a new home.
4. Name An Alternate Caregiver
In the event that a friend or family member is not able to care for your pet, it’s a good idea to name alternate caregivers, the Humane Society suggests. Be sure to stay in touch with potential caregivers, as situations can change over the years.
5. Find Somebody Who Can Adopt Your Pet
If you are unable to find a caregiver, you can use your will to direct a personal representative to find a new home for your pet. Since this can take time, it’s certainly a good idea to arrange for your pet’s temporary care. In doing this, it’s important to designate funds from your estate to help care for your pet in the interim, as well as cover the costs of looking for a new home for your pet or transporting your animal. You can find sample language from the Humane Society in how to set up this clause in your will.