For Pet Loving New Yorkers and Everywhere...
A Pet Power of Attorney: AKA Making Plans for Rover Before You’re Covered in Clover
By Lynda Shrager
Not many of us could (or would) do what hotel magnate Leona Helmsley did for her Maltese pup Trouble: She left $12 million in trust so the little white dog would never want for anything. But even if you’re not a millionaire, you can make plans to ensure your pets are well taken care of after you’re gone
Says Ms. Shrager, "As an occupational therapist providing rehabilitation in the home, I often hear from people that they fear that their pet may outlive them. While a family member or friend may be willing to care for your cat or dog or cockatoo, that’s a commitment not to be taken lightly. Aside from the cost of maintaining a pet, there is daily care, and for any number of reasons you may not have someone you can depend on to take on this huge commitment."
We should all take the time to organize important paperwork before a crisis occurs – and this includes estate planning for pets. The Humane Society of the United Statesrecommends choosing two people who will serve as temporary pet caregivers should an emergency arise. They should have easy access to your home, written instructions on feeding and care, the name and address of your veterinarian, and knowledge of your permanent plan for the pets. Neighbors, friends and relatives should know who the emergency caregivers are.
Notes the Humane Society, “Because pets need care daily and will need immediate attention should you die or become incapacitated, the importance of making these informal arrangements for temporary care giving cannot be overemphasized.”
A Trust to Keep Kitty in Kibble
There are formal options for people who want to ensure that their pets are cared for in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Some people specify plans for their animals in their wills, but you should understood that such provisions take effect only when you die, and they may take days or weeks to be carried out depending on when the will is read. A power of attorney, which authorizes someone to conduct some or all of your affairs for you while you are alive, can include care for your pets should you become incapacitated.
A pet trust is a legal document that designates a trustee who will hold funds “in trust” to pay the caregiver for all of the needs of your pet. Unlike a will, a trust can provide for your pet anytime you are unable to do so. The ASPCA suggests setting up the trust with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning as various states have differing laws. New York pet trusts cover the pet for its whole life, for example, but some other states only go up to 21 years, which may be of concern for horses or parrots or other animals with long lifespans.
Directions left in the pet trust should be very specific. For example, the exact brand of food your animal prefers, as well as the quantity and how often the pet should be fed; its daily activity habits; health issues and anything else you think will maintain consistency in its quality of life.
Pet Estate Planning Checklist
For everything you need to know on estate planning for pets, check out Fat Cats and Lucky Dogs by Barry Seltzer and Gerry Beyer. Here are a few tips:
- Stay in touch with your designated pet caregivers in case their situation changes over time and they can no longer be your pet’s guardian.
- Choose at least one alternate caregiver.
- When creating a trust, you will have to identify the pet to prevent fraud. Have labeled photos and consider microchip identifications.
- Choose a beneficiary to receive any remaining funds that were not used by the pet trust.