‘Til Death Do Us Part

The relationship that you share with your pet should last a lifetime, but what happens to your furbaby if you become ill or incapacitated? As a responsible caregiver, it is important to ensure that your pet will continue to receive adequate care if something unexpected happens to you. Don’t just assume that a friend or family member will automatically accept responsibility. It is critical to plan ahead, because in the confusion that accompanies a person’s unexpected illness, accident, or death, pets may be overlooked.

Find at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers in the event that something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; and the name of your veterinarian. These emergency caregivers should also know how to contact each other. Be sure that they are absolutely committed to giving immediate attention to your animal. To ensure long-term or permanent care, make WRITTEN arrangements that specifically cover needed care. It’s not enough that long time ago a friend verbally promised to take in your animal.

Consider partners, adult children, sisters, brothers, and friends who have met your pet and have successfully bonded with him, and have alternate caregivers in case your first choice becomes unwilling or unable to fulfill the obligation. Be sure you choose people whom you trust implicitly and who will do what is in the best interest of your animal. DISCUSS your expectations with them so that they understand the large responsibility they are accepting, and stay in touch with the designated caregivers. People’s priorities and circumstances change, so you need to occasionally discuss the agreement with them.

To make formal arrangements to provide for the long term care of your four-footed companion, seek help from professionals who can guide you in preparing legal documents that can protect the interests and those of your pet. However, keep in mind the critical importance of making advance personal arrangements to guarantee that your pet is cared for immediately if you become incapacitated. You might want to consider a power of attorney which authorizes someone else to conduct some of your affairs if you become incapacitated. Specific provisions can be made to take care of your pets, and do whatever is needed.

For extended care, there are many types of wills and trusts, so it is necessary to determine which is best for your situation. After you and your attorney have created a will, or trust, or both, leave copies with the person you’ve chosen to be executor of your estate, as well as with the pet’s designated caregivers. Make sure the caregivers also have copies of vet records and information about her dietary preferences and behavior traits.

Regardless of what legal devices you chose, it is your personal efforts in thinking and planning ahead that will ensure that your pet receives the love and care that you desire. It is absolutely imperative that you coordinate your own efforts with more formal legal planning. Don’t procrastinate…with a properly prepared plan in place, the future of your precious furbaby…and your peace of mind… are assured.