written by Patrick Schiek, photo by Eric Ward

In my last blog, I wrote about the joy and happiness that our pets can bring to us on a daily basis. There can be some heartache in owning a pet when the time comes for them to cross the rainbow bridge and leave us. It’s the hardest part about being a pet parent. It’s highly likely that when we get a pet, as humans, we will outlive that pet. Sobering, but true. 

But what happens if our pets outlive us?  I’m sure many of you have seen a social media post about a pet that needs adoption due to their owner passing away. If you haven’t given thought to it, you may want to sit down and come up with a plan. 

The last time Amy & I updated our will we included our pets in it. Specifically, a pet trust to provide for them. It gives us peace of mind to know that in the event of something bad happening, we have a plan for our dogs to give them the best possible life that we can. 

Here’s a few things to consider as you start to formulate your plan:

Who’s going to care for my pet(s) in the event of my passing?  This can be a bit of a daunting task. Surely you will want someone to shower your pets with the same love that you have. It’s time to identify who that may be and have a conversation with them about this. Don’t assume that someone will just take them in and it shouldn’t be a surprise to someone. If you can not come up with someone, there are associations (kennel clubs, therapy dog organizations, or rescue groups) that may take your pet in. Keep in mind that if you have more than one pet and you want them to stay together, it is important to specify this during your planning. It’s great if you find someone you feel comfortable caring for your pets, but you will want to have a backup as well. As we have learned in these recent difficult times of COVID, the unexpected may happen. The first person you have identified may lose their job or home or may be forced to move somewhere where pets are not allowed. Having a back up is a good idea. 

Where is the money going to come from to care for my pets?  A will is a legal document and can take time to be settled and for monies to be dispersed. Wills are extremely important, but with pets, other arrangements may be necessary. Pet trusts are such an arrangement. Traditional pet trusts are legal in all 50 states. They instruct a trustee to help a beneficiary by paying for the pet’s expenses according to the owners directions as long as the beneficiary takes proper care of the pet. Traditional pet trusts provide the owner with significant control over the pets care, such as specifying who will be the trustee, who will be the beneficiary / caretaker, what pet-related expenses the trustee will pay, what type of care the pet will receive, what will happen if the caretaker can no longer care for the animal, whether the animal will be buried or cremated after its death, and where the pets remains will be interred or stored.   

Consider contacting your financial adviser or attorney about pet trusts. Some do it yourself will programs or legal firms offer do-it-yourself will writing. These can be inexpensive but are usually not state specific. It’s always a good idea to check with a local attorney who has some estate planning and pet trust experience.  

Thanks for hanging in there with me on a heavy but important topic. You are always welcome to reach out to myself or Amy to talk about your pets and caring for them. We are happy to help in any way. 

Always remember, life is short, play with your dog.