For more and more Americans, pets are like family members. That means that when you pass away, you likely want to make sure that your beloved animal friend is taken care of properly. How can you do this? Here are four steps any pet owners should take.
Find a Guardian
The first step to ensuring the proper care of your pet is to find someone who will love and care for them in your absence. For many people, this person is a close friend or family member. If you don't have anyone you trust to take the pet, you may want to talk to local animal rescue or care agencies as well as your veterinarian about options. There are charitable organizations who are willing to take on the responsibility of pet ownership as designated by someone who passes away.
Set a Budget
Determine what your assigned guardian will likely need to spend for the pet's care. You could do this by investigating veterinary bills over the course of several years as well as food and boarding costs. Most owners leave the money in a lump sum to be used as needed. Leaving a set amount each year may cause difficulty if your pet becomes ill or needs more care as it ages.
Decide on a Will or Trust
If you have a person who you trust to take care of your pet, you may be able to simply leave instructions in a will. These instructions should be clear and include written agreement that the person will follow your instructions. The executor would then arrange for the handing over of money from your estate.
There are two times when you may want to set up a pet trust instead. One is if you wish to leave a larger amount of money for the pet's care and living situation. The other is if you feel that you should have someone watching over the pet's care to make sure your wishes are being met. In this case, have your estate planner set up a trust with a trustee and specific rules for what money should be spent on.
Discuss Your Wishes
Be open and honest about your arrangements for your pet. Meet with family members as well as the person (or persons) you want to take over their care. You should also discuss these plans with your estate planner so they know what you plan to do and can account for it in your estate planning. You may also want to discuss your plans with your pet's veterinarian to ensure continuity of care.
Whatever pet you have in your life, it's wise to take steps to ensure that they are loved and cared for if something happens to you. Then, you can enjoy their companionship knowing that your love will continue even after death.