How to Protect Your Pets After You Die
When it comes to our human children, we make sure to designate someone we love and trust as a godparent or guardian. We want to know that if something should happen to us, our child or children would be well cared for.
But what about pets? Many pet parents want to make sure their “children” are looked after and loved, too. But most people don’t know how to do that.
If you’re a pet parent or you want to help a pet parent protect their pets’ well-being when they're gone, this guide will help.
First, it’s a good idea to choose a friend or family member who can take care or your pet or pets for a number of days to a week or two. This person won’t be their permanent caretaker, but they will be the person who takes care of your pets in the short term if something happens to you.
It’s a good idea to designate more than one person as an emergency caregiver, especially if you have more than one pet, too. Before putting these names down on paper, have a conversation with them to make sure they’re ready for the responsibility.
Next, consider who you would want to take care of your pet or pets in the long term. Ask yourself these questions to determine if it’s a good fit:
- Would your pet do better in a home with or without other pets?
- Would your pet do better in a home with or without children?
- How much exercise does your pet need on a daily basis?
- What kind of medical care does your pet require?
- Can your pet be home alone for extended periods of time during the day?
Try to choose a friend or family member who would be willing and able to meet the needs of your pet or pets. Ideally, you would be able to keep your pets together and maintain as familiar an environment as possible.
Again, it’s essential to talk to the person you choose to make sure they’re entirely comfortable with the responsibility. Although they ideally won’t have to take in your pets, you want to be sure that they’ll follow through on their responsibility if the event arises.
If you can’t find the perfect home for your pets when you are gone, that’s okay. You can always write down your ideal traits in a home for your pet and designate a trusted person to rehome your pet if something does happen to you.
Consider the questions listed above to figure out what the ideal type of home would be for your pet. There are many loving potential homes out there for your pet, and it’s all about deciding on the traits that are most important to you and to your fur babies.
Any difficult task is easier if you tackle it as part of a team. If you have friends or family members with pets, you could get them together and discuss the idea of a “pet care pact.”
Decide who would take care of or take in whose pets in case of emergency or if something happens to one of you. That way, all of your pets are taken care of, and you all have peace of mind.
Especially if your pets have special needs or require special food, it’s a good idea to put away savings for their care. That way, the person who takes them in if something happens to you doesn’t have to worry about the added expense. They can simply focus on providing the best, most loving home possible to a pet who’s in need.
You can do this by simply stashing some cash in an envelope at home and labeling it “emergency pet care fund.” Place it somewhere safe and secure, and somewhere it can easily be found if and when it’s needed. If you want to make it more official, you can create a trust for your pets. A trust is a sum of money designated for a specific purpose, such as caring for your pets.
You’ll designate a power of attorney, which is a person with the authority to use the trust funds, in the way they were intended if you become incapacitated or pass away.
Another option for setting aside resources for your pets is adding them to your will. Unlike a trust, your will doesn’t go into effect if you become incapacitated; it only becomes effective if you die.
If you die, the executor of your estate (someone you designate to carry out your will) ensures your wishes are honored. This can include finding a new home for your pet or ensuring that a certain amount of your savings is set aside specifically for your pets’ care.
Emergency plans are only useful if people know about them. That’s why it’s important to put your plans in writing and, ideally, vocalize them to your friends and family members.
You can write down your plans for your pets on an index card and stick it somewhere noticeable, like your refrigerator or a corkboard. If you have more extended instructions, your emergency notice card can include directions on how to find those.
For example: “Instructions for Amble and Gamble are in the top-right drawer of my desk,” or, “Emergency instructions for B.B. and Obo! Look in the ‘Emergency Pet Care’ folder on the desktop of my PC!”
End-of-life plans, including plans for your pets, are not one-and-done. They need to be kept updated to make sure they still make sense for your pets. For example, if the home you chose for your cat Mikey recently adopted a rambunctious husky, you might want to reconsider whether or not that’s the best rehoming option.
As a good rule of thumb, it’s best to review your plans for your pets once per year.
Giving Your Pets the Very Best, Now and Forever
If you’re like most pet owners, you hate the idea of your pets being without you. But we never know what life has in store for us. Creating detailed plans for your pets just in case is one of the best and most selfless things you can offer them as their owner and loving pet parent.
Sarah is a writer at JoinCake.com, an end-of-life planning website with free resources and information on how to estate plan and honor loved ones’ final wishes.