Furry Family Members And Your Estate Plan

If you were to die tomorrow, what future would you imagine for your pets? Our furry family members come in many shapes and species, but dogs and cats are the most common. There are others however, such as reptiles, birds, and rodents. But what all of these animals have alike is that you are their parent, and would not have one if something were to happen to you. If you are a dedicated pet owner and want to ensure your pets are taken care of, then you can use an estate plan to outline your wishes if they were to outlive you.

If you pass away, is there someone you trust to have access to your home and give your pets food and water? Who will clean the cat’s litter plan or walk your dog? Do your pets have any medications? Pets can be very emotionally attached to their owners, losing you may cause enough stress on its own, so having someone to immediately check in and tend to them can make all the difference as they adjust. Having prearranged plans will be helpful if you pass away unexpectedly or are incapacitated and cannot communicate that your pets need care without you. Consider taking these precautions as well:

  • Carry a wallet with an alert card inside that lists the names and contact of your pet emergency caregivers. If medical personnel were to attend to you while away from your home in an emergency scenario, they can make efforts to ensure your pets are taken care of if something happens to you.
  • Talk with a couple friends or relatives who are responsibe and would agree to act as temporary emergency caretakers if something unanticipated happens to you. Give them a copy of a key to your home, care and feeding instructions, name of the veterinary hospital and veterinarian, and information about permanent provisions in the estate plan that you have established for your pet. 
  • Post removable notices on your doors or windows in case of an emergency, specifying how many pets you have and what species they are. These notices will tell emergency-response teams who are inside in the event of a fire, flooding, or other home emergency. 

As a Bozeman estate planning attorney from Silverman Law Office, PLLC explains, by law, pets are considered to be your property. This means you will have to leave them in the care of someone you trust within your estate plan, so that person can claim ownership legally. But make sure that you do not just name someone, ask beforehand if they are okay with having this role in the event that they need to do so. Inheriting someone else’s pet is a big responsibility, so it can help to start a savings fund that the caretaker can use to cover expenses only for pet-related costs, such as food, medication, vet appointments, and more. Leave this money to the same person that you leave your pet with, and appoint an alternate person in case the first choice passes away or their circumstances change. 

Planning for the future involves planning for your pet’s wellbeing too. Dedicated pet owners who want the best for their furry family members are encouraged to include them in their estate plan so that they are taken care of if the unexpected occurs.