It’s a topic most folks do not want to talk about, but it needs addressing. So our advice to you is this: Find out the answer to this question: “What happens to my dog if something happens to me” and read this article. Act on the things you need to and then do not think about it any longer.
Here’s what you need to know so that your dog is protected in the event you get ill, are unable to care for your dog, or you die. Since pets are a part of our families, knowing they are protecting should something happen to you is crucial. It is not the easiest of topics to explore, but it a necessary part of being a diligent pet parent.
How to Leave a Legacy for Your Dog
In a radio interview with Peggy Hoyt, estate planning attorney and animal advocate, it came as a great surprise to learn that a will is not enough to protect your pets. In her book, All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet, Hoyt outlines planning for the future of your pet, planning for disability and death, and even estate planning for your pets. We highly recommend this book, as we find it to be a step-by-step, easy-to-follow guide to address this topic and be done with it.
Create a Written Action Plan
One of the very first thing Hoyt states you must do is identify two people who agree to be responsible for your dog if something happens to you. That “something” includes incapacity, death, or unavailability due to natural disaster. The tumultuous weather phenomena over recent years proves why the latter in that list is important, too.
Assemble a binder or notebook with important documents in it for caregivers to access. Things Hoyt suggests include:
- Medical history of the dog
- Name, age, medications of the dog
- Contact information for the dog’s veterinarian
- Other family member information and contact
- Location of estate planning and financial documents
- Written instructions for caregivers
- Contact info and names of people who will provide long-term care for your dog if the first choice of people are unable or unwilling
- An emergency pet alert card. We at Fidose of Reality highly recommend and use the PetHub wallet card and suggest you snag one.
- In case of emergency stickers for your home
- Provisions in your estate plan (Hoyt says specifically this means powers of attorney, living trusts, wills, healthcare directives, and other planning documents) – according to state. Her book outlines these topics more in depth.
What is Estate Planning?
Proper estate planning allows you, the dog parent, to plan for yourself and your loved ones without relinquishing control of your affairs.
Traditional estate planning generally fails the dog parent because many people, including financial advisors, believe that estate planning is one single transaction. It is not.
Evacuations and Pets
If you must evacuate, take your pets. I tell you this from firsthand experience, as my family and I have emergently evacuated due to weather on more than one occasion. It is not for the weak of heart, but it can be done, especially if you are prepared. We were and are prepared for natural disaster and taking our dog with us.
Hoyt agrees and says, “Pets that are left behind can easily be injured, lost, or killed.”
CLICK THIS: What Happens During a Mandatory Evacuation
Can My Dog Inherit My Estate?
Hoyt says no, as a general rule, pets cannot inherit your estate, meaning your property or money. She writes about legacy planning techniques if you want to bequeath your estate out.
Death Planning Options
The three options Hoyt explores for death planning include wills, trusts, or doing nothing; each of these has pros and cons. Estate planning, she says, is not about documents—it is about the results you want to accomplish.
The Pet Plan and Pet Trust Guide
Years ago, I encountered a book, The Pet Plan and Pet Trust Guide, written by attorney Kimberly Adams Colgate. Our favorite feature of the book is that of the fill-in-the-blank pet trust form.
Providing for Your Pet After You Are Gone
There are three basic ways to provide care for your dog should you die and those include a will, a trust, and an agreement.
(1) Will: This is by far the most common document most pet parents believe they need to protect their pets if they die. A will “will not” necessarily protect them, as the instructions in the will are not automatically carried out. A probate for the court must get involved and can be costly. A will is better than no specific directive, but there are more effective ways to plan for your pet’s care upon your demise.
(2) Trust: In a trust, money to care for your pet is in place, so whatever Fido or Fluffy needs is there. The management care plan Hoyt describes is also a part of the trust. Third, and very important, the care you direct in the management care plan provides the methodology to do so.
(3) Agreement: The security of a mere agreement is not very strong, whether that agreement is in writing or verbal.
Bottom Line: What Happens to My Dog
A well-drafted pet trust can address all of the above and ensure that your dog is well cared for and that plans are in place as you desire.
Dog Related Resources If Something Happens To You
Website and Further Reading: Estate Planning for Trusts on Nolo.com
Medicine Vs Mom
In an ongoing effort to provide dog parents with the most valuable resources for health and wellness, we invite you to visit the blog of My Kid Has Paws, where former veterinary technician and fellow pet blogger, Rachel Sheppard, discusses the topic of caring for her your dog if you cannot.
Listen to Our Podcast
Listen to Peggy Hoyt and Carol Bryant, yours truly: Dogs and You Podcast
Note: Be sure to always consult an attorney/get legal help when it comes to legal documents and planning. We are not lawyers but want to provide you resources for further exploration and consideration.