The humorist Josh Billings once said: “A dog is the only thing on earth who loves you more than he loves himself”. As fellow dog lovers, we know this to be true.
The undying loyalty and devotion that dogs provide us is grounded in their innate behavior, as descendants of wolves, to survive as a member of a pack. Once a dog is introduced to you, he becomes part of YOUR pack and will devote his entire life to protecting and pleasing you.
In return, and as responsible Pet Parents, we have the obligation to devote our lives to their health and well-being…including the often disregarded consideration of who will care for our pets when we can’t.
As hard as it might be to imagine life without your pet, please consider how hard it might be for your pet to live without you.
Have you appointed a Guardian and/or Will or Trust for your pet?
While an unpleasant topic, estate planning should always be considered in advance and include your furry loved ones as well.
Important considerations include:
(1). Naming a Guardian in your Will who will accept the role of caregiver for your pet.
(2). Establish a trust (or provision in an existing trust) that provide distributions to cover all your pet’s needs and expenses. Pet trusts are legally recognized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
To emphasize the importance and legitimacy of Pet Trusts, Minnesota was the last state to pass legislation in this regard. A clever lobbyist brought his Golden Retriever to a committee meeting to convince legislators of its importance. The bill was passed and signed by the Minnesota governor following the demonstrable appeal.
(3). Provide detailed instructions that pertain to your pet’s specific needs and define requirements for the caregiver to submit expenses for reimbursement (if a Trustee is involved).
(4). Consider your pet’s standard of living and life expectancy in order to determine the appropriate amount of money to set aside for their lifetime needs. Be sure to add administrative costs if a Trustee are involved.
(5). Consult with your insurance agent about adding your pet to existing life insurance policies that cover your human family.
(6). If you are unable to establish a Will or Trust that includes your pets, consider other caregivers, such as family members, close friends or trusted neighbors; preferably someone who has a relationship with your pets. It will be important to have a meaningful conversation with your appointed caregiver, so they are fully aware of the responsibility and cost involved.
(7). A periodic update may be necessary to ensure that lifestyle changes still allow your designated caregiver to assume responsibility if needed. Ex: if your neighbor or family member moves, acquires their own pets (or children), experiences a job change that creates financial burden or other incapacity to care for your pet. Despite prior and best intentions, “life happens”, and these informal arrangements may need to be reconsidered.
(8). If you don’t have someone close to you who will assume responsibility, consider consulting with a local shelter or rescue organization. Setting funds aside will help tremendously should a shelter be considered as your designated pet care provider.
(9). Carry an Emergency Contact card in your wallet that alerts emergency-response personnel to the pets in your home who may be left alone. All pet owners should have emergency information available in their homes as well, in the event of a house emergency and sudden evacuation. You’ll find a downloadable Emergency Contact card on our home page under Resources and Guides.
We can’t possibly compete with Leona Helmsley, who left $12,000,000 for the care of her Maltese “Trouble” who passed in 2011. Whatever her motivations were for bequeathing such an unimaginable sum for her beloved dog, she may have unwittingly brought much-needed attention to this important facet of pet ownership.
photo attribution: Matt ODell on unsplash.com