Dog-gone it, after you're gone, your surviving pet will not only grieve but might also have issues in finding suitable care-givers to help them live out their lives. With over 62% of American households housing pets today, their livelihoods may be in dire jeopardy without forethought given to guardian-succession.
According to a Wall Street Journal post by Karen Blumenthal, she discusses how the law treats pets more as chattel versus members of the family, which leads to the possibility that your "precious pooch or coddled cat could easily end up in a shelter - or worse - if you die or are unable to care for it."
So, this month, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is partnering with the the online legal-documents provider LegalZoom.com to offer a new service called the "Pet Protection Agreement." Similar to a will, this is a document that identifies guardians for your pets and allows you to leave funds for their care. In addition, it also provides a checklist for its care-giving, including the pet's veterinarian, groomer, pet shops, pet sitter, dog walkers and other service providers.
This legal agreement costs between $39 to $79, whereby the ASPCA will receive 10-15% of the price, depending on where the buyer clicks from.
Rachel Hirschfeld, who created the Pet Protection Agreement, indicates that its best to identify two or three potential guardians, since our society is so mobile today. And if you can't determine a suitable care-giver, it is suggested that you seek out a local shelter or rescue organization that has a good track record of finding pets good homes.
It is also suggested, the pet owners might think about leaving additional funds in their will, specifically earmarked for the care of their pet, after they're gone. Blumenthal in her article states a caveat to leaving money for your pet. "For amounts of, say, $25,000 or more, you can create a pet trust, naming a trustee to manage the money, who may be separate from the caretaker. You should also specify where any money remaining will go when the pet passes away."
However, according to Mary O'Reilly, a Minelo, NY trusts-and-estates lawyer, she cautions that often "there's not a lot of sympathy when grandma gives her estate to her cat." And in those cases, where you might have relatives fighting over monies left to a pet, you should consider a "no-contest clause" which deletes the share for other beneficiaries should they contest your wishes.
Readers, what are your thoughts regarding consideration for the well-being of your pet after your gone? Are there additional options available that have not been highlighted here?