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Many people assume they will outlive their pets since humans have longer life spans.
But what if you become incapacitated or die first?
What happens to your beloved dog or cat?
If you have an informal promise from a friend or family member to take your pet in, be aware that person may be unwilling or unable to honor the promise. Legitimate reasons abound: family member allergies, rental leases prohibiting dogs, frequent business travel or conflicts with other pets.
In fact, an estimated 500,000 pets every year are brought to shelters when their owners die.
To be sure that doesn’t happen to your animal companion, take some time to plan ahead.
First, know that a pet’s future can only be secured if legally enforceable documents are in place. Most states, including Virginia, now have pet trust laws in place.
It is critical your estate plan includes adequate funds to care for your pet, as well as instructions on what your wishes are, and who has agreed to carry them out.
Find Fido’s Guardian…
Finding the right person someone to commit to your pet’s care is crucial and should include these guidelines:
…and a Backup
Once you have the primary caregiver identified, take the extra step of finding an alternate caregiver. Change is certain. While your primary caregiver may have the best intentions, he may make life changes that challenge the commitment.
Finally, put together a notebook or folder with your pet’s critical medical history, medications and daily care. Include your wishes for future medical care, especially end-of-life decisions. Give the packet to your caregiver and alternate and ask them to review it in case they have questions or concerns you can answer now.
The cost of caring for a dog over 10 years averages $15,000, and caring for a cat is about $5,000 less, according to a pet industry group.
To find out if that applies to your pet, compile an annual budget of expenses specific to him. Then, consult your veterinarian for anticipated future costs based on aging issues common to your pet’s type or breed.
Be prepared to set aside a reasonable, but not outrageous, fund to cover future expenses. An estate planning attorney can help identify appropriate vehicles, such as designating your pet’s guardian as a life insurance beneficiary, or setting up a bank account payable to the guardian upon your death.
This way, cash can be accessed immediately for your pet’s care.
Don’t leave your pet’s future to chance by relying on an informal agreement. Instead, speak with an estate planning attorney about drafting a legal arrangement so you can be assured your intentions will be met and the person and funds to fulfill them are identified and adequate.
Your pet is like part of the family. Plan ahead for him to receive the care you want if you’re not there to provide it.
If you need assistance in planning for your pet’s future, call upon Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia for personal, caring estate planning service. Estate planning is our singular focus.
Our attorneys have been named among the “Legal Elite” by Virginia Business, and ranked by their peers at the highest level of professional excellence for legal knowledge, communication skills and ethical standards, earning the AV Preeminent distinction from Martindale-Hubbell.
Give Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia a call, or email us, today. We’re here to help.