Today’s subject may be a little on the morbid side, but recent events have me thinking of the importance of estate planning for dogs.

Considering our untimely demise is not an overly pleasant topic, but it’s something we need to talk about at some point – especially if we own pets.

We’ve talked a lot about preparing for losing our dogs and how life without our four-legged friends would go on, but we don’t often talk about preparing them for possibly losing us.

If we haven’t adequately prepared to convey our post-life wishes for our pets, they can end up in shelters or other undesirable locations.

So what are the options?

Pet Trust

Start with a pet trust. This is a pretty straightforward legal arrangement that sets up care for a pet after the passing of the owner. This is covered by the trust law umbrella and stipulates that a trustee will hold responsibility over the pet.

The pet trust includes instructions as to how to take care of your pet and the resources to do so.  Whoever the trustee or caregiver is, they are legally bound to hold to your decisions in regard to how to take care of your pet.

Another note on pet trusts: you can fill out a living pet trust that will ensure that your pet is looked after should you be unable to do so for reasons of serious injury or, you know, inevitably losing your marbles.

Will Provisions

Another option is a provision in your will. This form of estate planning for pets is a simple addition to your already-existing will that leaves your dogs to a beneficiary. You can also leave money to the same beneficiary so that they can meet your wishes without breaking the bank.

This is actually a less costly option than the pet trust listed above, but the instructions here are not legally enforceable so the beneficiary does not have to follow them. This can be a problem if you’ve left your dog to a snotty nephew, for instance. And you can’t dump money for care over time; it comes out as a lump sum payment, which makes it more susceptible for abuse.

Do-It-Yourself Pet Provisions

Yet another option is to draw up your own pet protection agreement yourself and have them notarized. There are a few options for this, including some that are available on the LegalZoom website. The price is right, for one thing, and you’re afforded more flexibility in the final arrangement. But the lack of professionalism may leave things less comprehensive than you would like.

If all else fails to inspire you, you can always leave your pet to someone you trust informally. There’s no legal binding to this, but you may not need one if you have someone capable of loving your pet as much as you do. Be very careful here. When recently looking to adopt my next dog, I stumbled across one older dog who was left to a family member and the family member neglected the old fella.

The bottom line is to KNOW with every ounce of your being that the person or persons you are trusting to care for your dog if something should happen to you, will do just that.  Estate planning for dogs is a tricky business, but it’s something that should be done by all responsible pet owners.

Do you personally have estate planning set up for your dog?  If so, please share with a comment. I’d love to know more about it!

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