When setting up a trust or will, many people overlook the fact that their pets are members of the family too. We know that their lifespans are generally not as long as humans, so we don’t think about what might happen to them should they outlive us.
As such, their long-term needs must be considered in the event that you are unable or unavailable to care for them due to disability or death — especially considering that some pets, such as parrots, can outlive their owners by many, many years.
In Virginia, you can include provisions in your Will or Medical Power of Attorney, or even create a separate Pet Trust document to provide for your pets. Items to be considered include daily caretaker roles, instructions for medications and vet care, special feeding instructions, final burial instructions (such as whether you want your pets at death to be cremated and placed near your grave), etc. Consider leaving a stipend to support your pet, directives that your regular vet continues to provide medical care for your pets, provisions for continued payment of premiums for pet insurance, and much more.
Keep in mind also that pets need immediate care in the short term should anything happen to you, so line up one or two friends or family members who can serve as temporary caregivers. Make sure they know how to access your home and have instructions on how to properly care for each of your pets along with the name of your veterinarian. Carry an “alert card” in your wallet providing their names and contact information.
Unfortunately, many pets end up in kill-shelters following the disability or death of a pet owner due to there being no plan in place for the pets, rather than the pet being placed with a friend, family member or even a no-kill animal foster or rescue facility.
Our pets are precious and beloved members of our family and are perhaps more vulnerable than any other family member to mistreatment or lack of proper care in the occurrence of their owners’ disability or death. Don’t let the unimaginable happen to your pet. Set up provisions for their care now, before disaster strikes.
To create legal directives for the ongoing care of your pet, contact the attorneys, Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi, of the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We can teach you more about how we can create or update your estate plan in order to help you protect this very important member of your family.