In our last post, we spoke briefly about pet trusts, and how they can be excellent vehicles for ensuring a pet is cared for once its owner is gone. As we noted, pet trusts are probably the most reliable way to provide for a pet in estate planning, but they are not the only way.
Another way to ensure a pet is cared for is to write out an agreement. In this approach, one identifies one or more caregivers and writes out an agreement stating that such person or persons are responsible for the pet’s care upon your death or inability to care for the pet yourself. This approach is affordable, since one doesn’t have to pay an attorney to draw up the agreement. One could also use a standard form online, which sots between $30 and $60. Some people simply draft the agreement on their own.
After the form or letter is written up, it should be signed by both the owner and the caregiver, and then it should be notarized. A copy of the agreement should be given to the vet, the caregiver and close family members, so they know who to give the animal to when the time comes. With these agreements, it is also wise to create a list of details about the pets care, including medications, where to get veterinary care, what kind of food. The caregiver should be aware of all these details and agree to them.
Another possible option is to look into continuing pet care programs at vet schools or animal shelter. Such programs often provide food, shelter and medical care until the pet can be adopted by another family. To get into these programs, one may pays a one-time fee for a first pet, and then a reduced fee for additional pets. Fees do vary.
A final option is to simply talk to the person or person one wishes to have care for their pet. While this option doesn’t offer much legal protection, it is better than doing nothing at all. Or one could select from among the options that do provide such protection.
Source: MarketWatch, “Estate planning to care for your pets,” Catey Hill, December 25, 2012