Unexpected Ways to Protect Your Pet

woman sits near window and cuddles cat on her lap

Pets are a very special part of our life. We’ll do anything we can to keep them happy and healthy. You may not be aware that there are some unexpected ways to protect your pet. Let’s take a look at how to keep our furry family members safe.

Estate Planning for Pets

Just like an estate plan protects you and your family, an estate plan protects your pet. Here are the legal documents you need to create a pet estate plan that can be part of your comprehensive estate planning package:

Pet Power of Attorney

Just like a Power of Attorney you would set up for yourself, the Pet Power of Attorney springs into action if you are not able to care for your pet. Suppose you became ill or went on vacation and had to leave your pet at home, this document grants authority to a person – legally called an agent – you choose to act on your behalf as the caregiver for your pet. 

The agent and caregiver can be the same person, or the agent could be someone to oversee the caregiver. The caregiver/agent should be people you trust to honor your wishes.

RELATED: Introducing Gentreo Pets: A New Way to Treat Pets Like the Family They Are

You can provide specific instructions for the agent/caregiver to carry out. These could include:

      • Listing any medical issues – An illness or medical condition the caregiver needs to be aware of.
      • Any medications that need to be administered – Types of medications and a schedule when they need to be given.
      • Name all pets – If you have more than one pet, list them separately along with instructions for each.
      • Food/treats – Favorite foods or treats your pet enjoys.
      • Limiting the cost of any medical services – Set spending limits on any treatments or procedures that may need to be done if an emergency arises.
      • Medical treatment choices – Choose what type of procedures you would want or not want.
      • Providing an alternate agent/caregiver – If your initial choices cannot fulfill their duties, have someone ready to step in.
      • Routines – Feeding or walking schedules.
      • Long-term care provider – If your pet becomes in need of long-term care that you could not provide, name someone who could.
      • Control the caregiver’s powers – You can set limited or broad authority to the caregiver.
      • List veterinarians– Provide the contact info for veterinarians and pet hospitals.

If an emergency occurs, a veterinarian may not treat your pet without your authorization. The Pet Power of Attorney ensures your pet will get the care it needs should something happen.

Pet Trust

This allows you to put money aside to provide for your pet. As with a “people” Trust, the Pet Trust holds assets under the control of a trustee you appoint. If you become incapacitated or die, the Pet Trust will provide the funds needed for the caregiver you name to take care of your pet’s needs.  You can set up a Pet Trust by:

  • Estimating money needed – You can put as much money in a Pet Trust as you want. However, if you put in too much, a family member could challenge it in court. There have been cases where this has happened, and judges have reduced the Pet Trust’s funding amount. So, be careful to estimate how much your pet’s care would reasonably cost. Take into consideration the age and condition of your pet.
  • Providing instructions – Give specifics as to how the money is to be used by the caregiver for food, grooming, vet visits, toys, etc.
  • Naming trust protector – In addition to appointing the trustee and caregiver, you should also name a trust protector. This person serves as the watchdog (no pun intended) of the Pet Trust to make sure the funds are being used as you instructed.
  • Directing where surplus money should go – If your pet dies and there is remaining money in the Pet Trust, instruct where it should go such as to a relative or charity.
A Pet Trust can work with the Pet Power of Attorney. Both tools ensure your pet’s care.

Last Will and Testament

According to Safe Passage Urns, 1.3 million pets each year are sent to shelters after an owner dies. Due to shelter capacity issues, more than half are put down. Don’t let that happen to your beloved pet. You can name a beneficiary in your Will that will inherit your pet after you pass. You also have the option to leave money to that person, providing instructions that you request that those funds be used for the care of your pet.  Be aware there is no court oversight guaranteeing those funds would be used as you instructed. In this case, the Pet Trust is the best option.

Did you know you cannot not name your pet as a beneficiary and leave it any assets? Pets are considered property by law and therefore are not entitled to inherit anything from a Will. If you do bequeath assets to your pet, the state would decide who would receive those assets.

Related: What Happens to My Pet If I Die Unexpectedly?

Have peace of mind your pet will be cared for if something happens to you with a Pet Power of Attorney, a Pet Trust, and a Will. Your pet can – and should – be part of your estate plan.

Other ways to protect your pet

In addition to an estate plan, here are a few other ways to protect your pet:

  • Pet Insurance – There are pet insurance policies available to help cover medical costs, a few offered by nationally known insurance companies. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the monthly premiums range from $6 to $155 depending on the type of pet, and the choice of deductibles and limits.
  • Informal Agreement – This is the most common of pet care. You can have a verbal agreement with a neighbor, relative or friend to take custody and care of your pet if you are unable to. Needless to say, this has no legal “teeth”.
  • Letters of Instruction – You can provide a list of instructions of how you want your pet cared for. Like an informal agreement, letters of instruction are not legal binding and should be used in conjunction with an estate plan. 
  • GPS – If your pet gets lost, a GPS tracker will let you hone on it. You can place the device on a collar, and it will transmit a signal to your cell phone or receiver.
  • Microchip – About the size of a single grain of rice, a microchip can be implanted under the skin. Each has an identification number matching your contact info. When your pet is found, the chip can be scanned by a vet or animal shelter so you can be notified.
  • ID tags – The so-called “dog tags” have been used for ages. They can have your contact information or an ID number.

There are old and new ways to protect your pet. A combination of both will give you peace of mind when it comes to keeping your pet safe.


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