What Happens If You Predecease Your Pets?

What Happens If You Predecease Your Pets?

Learn how to plan for the forever care of your fuzzy family member should you predecease your pet! By Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDog.comMy husband and I are childless, unless you count our dogs. We actually do count our dogs as our little ones. Life with our fuzzy children has been great – they never ask to borrow the car or sneak in the house late, after curfew. We’ve shared our life with seven fluffy ones and know that we will always have dogs in our lives. A year ago we had to say goodbye to two of our older dogs, when you adopt elder dogs it is a part of the picture yet it doesn’t lesson the pain that accompanies the decision to allow your beloved pet to pass. During this time, my closest friend shared this nugget with me, “dogs are the only creatures you welcome in in your life knowing that they will die before you do.” Wise words and it put things in perspective. So without human children to care for our current brood of dogs should we pass, I started wondering what happens if you predecease your pets?

Don’t Expect It, Yet Plan For It

Everyone is born and everyone passes. It is one of the few things in life that you can be sure of. Even if you have children or family or friends that say they will take care of your dogs, like all things important in life…you’ll want to get that in print. Legally. That’s not to say you can’t trust these people, but it is to say that animals are still seen as ‘property,’ and in some states things may go smoothly, while in others it might go like chunky peanut butter. According to a top estate planning attorney, each year 500,000 pets are euthanized when their owners predecease them. That’s a chilling thought. So just like everything else that is important in your life, plan.

Don’t Have $12M To Leave Your Pet?

When she passed, Leona Helmsley left $12M to her dog. Ms. Helmsley ensured the forever care for her dog as well as allowed the use of her estate funds to generally advance the welfare of dogs. That’s puppy love! But do you need to have big money in order to safeguard your pet should you pass? No, you don’t. But it is interesting to note that the vast majority of pet parents (or pet caretakers) haven’t include their pets in their estate planning, only 20-25% have established a pet trust. As a human who believes in caring for an animal throughout their entire life, I feel obligated to consider a scenario that has me predeceasing my pets. So, while I don’t have $12M, I think I better figure out how to include my pets in my estate planning.

Introducing Pet Trusts

A lot of people think that including their pet in their will is enough, but in many cases it is not. What you’ll want to consider is a pet trust. A pet trust can provide for your pet immediately and is applicable not only in your passing, but can also be implicated if you become ill or incapacitated; and pet trusts are available in nearly every state. Including a pet trust in your estate planning can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on a few different factors – size and complexity. When your drawing up your estate planning you can save costs by simply including a pet trust in the package. Here are some pet trust tips for you to follow:

  • Learn how to plan for the forever care of your fuzzy family member should you predecease your pet! By Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDog.comSecure an experienced estate planner
  • Identify a trustee, and a back-up
  • Consider who you want to care for your pet(s)
  • Obtain your pet’s microchip/DNA information
  • Keep your pet’s current veterinary information and list of medications
  • Ensure current photographs of your pet(s), keep them up-to-date
  • Think about and document the standard of living you desire for your pet
  • Outline the care you want for your pet up to and including their passing

Also, you’ll want to consider the costs of food, shelter, medical care, and if you desire or need to provide financially for your pet’s caretaker. These costs can depend on the expected lifespan of your animal, so make sure you reconsider these costs at various timeframes, say every couple of years. Some good reading on this topic is provided by the ASPCA and the American Bar Association.

Live for the Now and Plan for the “Gosh, I Hope Not”

Considering what happens should you predecease your pets is good food for thought. Just don’t think of pet trust estate planning as a bummer of a topic – think of it MattieDog Wants To Know What You Thinkas one of the most important gifts you could give your fuzzy family member. We’ve decided to make our pet trust work an enjoyable adventure…documenting our pups numerous likes and dislikes, and what our chosen caretaker will need to do in order to keep the human-animal bond we’ve established with our pets going strong. We’ve set aside Valentines Day to review and update our pet trust, as this is the day that universally symbolizes love.

Do you have any great pet-based estate planning tips you’d like to share? If so, just leave a note in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping by!

 

Rebecca Sanchez, The Pet Lifestyle Guru at MattieDog

 

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44 Comments

  1. Oh my, I had no idea a half million pets are killed every year because their guardians die first. That’s right down there in animal welfare with ancient Egyptian royalty burying their live pets with them. Thanks for bringing this important topic to light.

    Reply
    • We had no idea that the number was so high – but having adopted senior dogs, the story is normally the same: the owner passed and no one wanted the dog. OMGosh, how can that be? So sad, and no dog, or animal, should be put in that situation.
      MattieDog recently posted…Decoding Your Dog’s Ways of Showing LoveMy Profile

      Reply
  2. Thank you for this eye opening post! I always assume my humans will be around forever, but you do need to plan for the what ifs. I will bring this post to my humans attention and have to sit them down and have a chat with them .

    Reply
  3. I have many times thought about this, so when doing her microchip etc I made sure there is a a second emergency number on everything so that she is safe

    Reply
  4. This is a topic I have not given any thought to before now. I just assumed I would outlive my pets, but things do happen. It’s very sad to think that so many pets are euthanized because they have outlived their owners.

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  5. Great post! It’s a topic none of us want to think about but it’s so important to have a plan in place!

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  6. Mr. N’s foster will take him back if something happened to us. We should probably think about wills and trusts though.

    Reply
  7. Mr. N’s foster will take him back if something happened to us. We should probably think about wills and trusts though.

    Reply
  8. Great article on an extremely important topic. I have a son or several, who will take Katie. They are all cat men. But none is an excellent reminder re: the pet’s upkeep.

    Reply
  9. It’s so important to plan for the future of our pets when we are not able to care for them. None of us know what’s around the corner.

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  10. wow, I’ve never though about this subject. thank you for such a great post.

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  11. That is so sad that many pets are needlessly killed because of poor planning on the part of their humans. It is something to think about now.

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  12. Great information! I’m so glad I have children that would take my pets in a heart beat so I never have to worry! I had no idea the number of pets killed… so sad!

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  13. I’ve never given any thought at all to this. Thanks so much for sharing. I always think about losing my people, but never about my pet losing me.

    Reply
  14. Several of my friends and I have included each other in our wills to care for our pets. After working in shelters, I have seen what happens when people don’t make arrangements …it’s absolutely heartbreaking when older animals end up in shelters after their humans have passed away.

    Reply
    • That is great planning – and yes, it is so sad! We found this to be true with adopting senior dogs – their owners passed and no one in the family would take the dog… so sad!
      MattieDog recently posted…Decoding Your Dog’s Ways of Showing LoveMy Profile

      Reply
  15. It’s heartbreaking to know that taking the time to be organized could save our beloved companions being PTS due to our untimely demise. We do have a plan. Great post!

    Reply
  16. I feel confident that my family (children or sisters) will take care of my pets, but I think it is a great idea to set aside a small trust for them to help lessen the financial impact. I would take in any of my sisters’ dogs, but my mom’s cat will be a tough one. I think one of my sisters is willing to take her in though if needed.
    Beth | Daily Dog Tag recently posted…Fetching!My Profile

    Reply
  17. Like you, I don’t have human children – just the furry kind. I really do have to take some time and make my preparations for my kitties a legally binding deal. I don’t have any reason to believe I will die anytime soon (or even within the expected life span of my cats), but life changes in an instant. I had a friend that died at the age of 42 a couple of years ago when a tree fell on him while he was walking in the woods behind his house alone. You just never know.
    Robin recently posted…Cat Dental Health Word SearchMy Profile

    Reply
  18. Really important topic Rebecca! I talk to my family about this since we have three dogs and how this would handled but we don’t have anything formal in place and should!

    Reply
  19. I am so sure my children or anyone else in may family will gladly take care of my pet.

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  20. An important topic, and one that most don’t think about. My husband and I need to look into this!

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  21. Thank you for such a terrific post! I can’t believe 500k pets get euthanized every year just because their owners pass away! How awful. I have plans for my dogs but haven’t formalized them or set money aside specifically for them.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
    • It is really hard to fathom isn’t it! Good planning is important.

      Reply
  22. I never thought about this possibility until reading about the poor animals who are left behind on social media. This is a very scary thought. I need to make arrangements for my girls because I’m not getting any younger!

    Reply
    • It’s always so good to plan – we did this weekend!

      Reply

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