There are a few different ways to create a pet protection plan. One reasonably inexpensive method, somewhat less formal than a pet trust, is a pet protection agreement. Pet protection agreements provide a way for pet owners to determine, ahead of time, who should be their pet’s caregiver, as well as give detailed instructions about the care that is expected. A great benefit of a pet protection agreement, not available when simply using a will, is the fact that the agreement can be drafted to become effective in the event of your incapacity as well.
Selecting your choice of caregiver
Of course, part of a pet protection agreement is identifying your pet or pets that will need care. You must also identify the person you want to provide that care. This is an important choice, because the caregiver you select will serve as your pet’s guardian and be ultimately responsible for your pet’s well-being.
Unlike pet provisions in a will, a pet protection agreement is, in essence, a contract. The caregiver you choose will be required to sign the agreement, making him or her legally bound by its terms. While a will only distributes your pet with your other property, a pet protection agreement is a legally enforceable document that creates an obligation to care for your pet.
Also include an alternative caregiver
Unfortunately, despite the best of plans, your caregiver may be unable to care for your pet when the time comes. Either due to death or the caregiver’s own incapacity, it may be necessary for someone else to step in and provide care for your pet. It is a good idea to name an alternate or successor caregiver, as well, just to cover your bases. Otherwise, your pet will likely be turned over to an animal shelter.
Consider naming an organization of last resort
In case neither your caregiver, nor the alternative or successor caregiver, is able to provide care for your pet when the time comes, pet owners still have the opportunity to identify an organization of last resort, in order to avoid the shelter. There are various organizations, the sole purpose of which is to provide care for pets after their owners have died. You may also want to consider giving the organization the option of finding a temporary or permanent home for your pet.
Provide sufficient financial support for your pet’s care
While it is optional, establishing a source of financial support is often beneficial to your chosen guardian. When determining the amount of funds necessary, consider the number of pets you have, their ages and life expectancy and any current health or medication needs.
You may also want to include funds to assist with lifestyle and socialization, daily routines and any special preferences you want to continue being provided. Once you have determined an estimated amount, your estate planning attorney can assist you in determining the best way to actually provide the funds, whether it be a trust or an investment product of some type.
Provide specific instructions regarding medical and end of life care
Don’t forget to provide information regarding any medical conditions your pet may have, along with any required medication. Contact information for the animal hospital or veterinarian’s office you routinely use is also a good idea. Your wishes regarding your pet’s end of life care should also be included, including whether you want your pet to be euthanized, according to local laws.
If you have questions regarding pet protection agreements, or any other pet estate planning needs, please contact Wilcox Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.
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