While some pet owners may consider what will happen to their pets after they die, it is equally important to plan for your pet’s care during any time period when you are not able to care for your pet yourself. This time period could include unexpected extended hospitalizations or the immediate need to reside in a nursing home. Formalizing a plan for your pet’s care in such a scenario should keep your pet out of a shelter and ensure she is in good hands.
There are several ways to provide for your pet’s care during times of disability, including through a revocable trust, a pet protection agreement and by mentioning your pet in your durable power of attorney. The benefit to including instructions on your pet’s care in a durable power of attorney is that your agent will be able to immediately care for your pet by spending your resources on the pet and making sure she being cared for. Regardless of the vehicle you choose to formalize a care plan for your pet, the following are important factors to consider:
1) Select a caregiver for your pet. With any potential caregiver, discuss what the job of caring for your pet will entail and have her meet and spend time with your pet to see if it is a good fit, much like a shelter would have a new potential owner do before adopting an animal. If you are creating a trust, the trustee is not the best option for the pet’s caregiver since that would negate the checks and balances inherent in a trust with an independent trustee. If you cannot find an individual to care for your pet, other options include finding an organization that will care for your pet either permanently or temporarily while they find your pet a new home. It is important to visit and vet these organizations as they range in quality.
2) Consider the standard of living and your pet’s expenses. Factors to consider include regular veterinary expenses; anticipated additional medical expenses as the pet ages, such as medicine or procedures; and the cost of food, current medicine and supplies, such as cat litter, toys, petsitters, dog walkers or daycare. Additional expenses may include a stipend for the caregiver and trustee fees if you choose a pet trust.
3) Create a care plan. Detail your pet’s eating frequency and habits, type of food and treats, toys, habits, veterinary information and records and medicine and supplements.
Once these factors have been considered, formalize your plan by selecting the vehicle by which you will provide for your pet’s care. Providing for your pet in a will, which only takes effect after you die, will be useless in caring for your pet during a time of disability. A document that takes effect while you are alive, such as a trust or other agreement, is necessary to ensure your pet is cared for when you cannot do it yourself.