What Will Happen To My Pets If I Die?

dog_wheelchairNo one wants to think about death or disability. Of course, if you die, you are beyond the worry and care of everyday living. But we must consider those who we are leaving behind. Pets are the part of our family that we sometimes fail to make plans for. As I have gotten older, I am becoming more concerned with the well-being of my pets if something happens to me. Maybe I am more concerned than some, because I have many pets. I recently graduated from Paralegal school and am working in a law firm that is primarily focused on wills, estates, and guardianships. We have many elderly clients and it has become abundantly clear to me that few people really understand how to plan for the possibility that they may die unexpectedly or be physically or financially unable to care for their pets. The unfortunate thing is that pets are the ones who suffer when people fail to make the appropriate arrangements for their care.
If you are fortunate enough to have family members who are willing to take in your pets, remember to put something in writing, preferably in a will or trust. Make sure that the family member or friend is agreeable and able to take on the responsibility, not just trying to pacify you. If you are financially able, set up financial arrangements for your pet’s care. Contact your vet and inform them of your wishes. It is a good idea to give them copies of paperwork that involves the pet’s history and medical care. Most attorneys who handle Wills and Estates can help you with details and documents. There is a specialty of law called Animal Law. Someone who specializes should be able to help you, or can refer you. The North Carolina Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service to help you get the attorney that best suits your needs. Talk to your pet-loving friends and ask them what their plans are. You can really get some great feedback that way.
If you have the means, consider leaving money or property to a local rescue group or shelter. You can even set up a grant if you have the time and inclination. Many people give money to veterinary hospitals to care for pets in cases where clients run out of funds for their care. The vet in charge can choose who to give funds to based on criteria set by you and can account to your estate for the expenditure of funds. If your pet is a favorite at the vet hospital, put out feelers to the doctors and vet staff. You would be amazed at the networking in the veterinary community. I know of many cases in which veterinary staff ended up adopting client’s pets. I also know several doctors whose clients have left their pets to the doctor in their will.

What happens if you become disabled and have no family or friends to assist you with pet care? You may consider contacting a rescue group. Of course, the shelter is a option, but usually a poor one and your pet’s future will be uncertain. You may be able to find a temporary foster home until a more permanent “forever” home is available. Unfortunately, the options for pet care are almost always dependant on finances. It is still important to plan for the unthinkable. Do whatever you are able to. Even a shaky plan is better than no plan at all. I cannot advise anyone on how they need to plan, but I hope that I have put the seed in your mind and given you something to think seriously about. Whatever you decide to do, communicate it to your family and other loved ones, veterinary staff and doctors. Reach out to others. NETWORK, NETWORK,NETWORK! Don’t let the term “network” intimidate you. All networking means is that you talk to someone who knows someone who knows someone…on and on.
The internet is a vast source of knowledge and will allow you to educate yourself about the options available to you and it will allow you to reach people that you might not communicate with otherwise. Don’t forget to check out the chat rooms and forums. LinkedIn and Facebook are excellent social networking sites and I believe you will find some solution to your needs whatever they may be. Let me leave you with this final comment: There is a person or family for every pet. If you can let people know that you need assistance, someone will help you. I have discovered that people admire those who plan ahead, especially when they are trying to make sure their pets are cared for. If you can share your story, it will tug at someone’s heartstrings and you will be amazed at the results.
Thank you Marie Myatt for writing this article.
Marie is also a Four Paws pet sitter.

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