Pet Lovers Continued Care Options
FOR PET LOVERS: Continued Care for Your Pets
Did you know that it’s possible to include pets in your estate and legacy planning? This is a huge step toward peace of mind for pet lovers. There are two main aspects to consider: 1) Care for your pet after you’re gone and 2) Care for your pet if you become seriously ill.
Of course we don’t want to think about either of these possibilities, but how wonderful that we have the legal means and opportunity to be thoughtful pet owners in all situations.
The first step to caring for your pet after you’re no longer able to do so, is to ask your attorney about The Pet Trust and the Pet Protection Agreement. If your attorney isn’t familiar with these trusts you can refer them to California Probate Code Section 15212 which establishes the lawfulness in California of a trust for the care of a pet or domestic animal. Most states have adopted similar probate codes. A resource you may also want to refer to is the book Petriarch by Rachel Hirschfeld: Rachel@petriarch.com.
Secondly, what if you become ill or incapacitated? It’s important that your Health Care Directive mention “I have Pets at home that need care” and provide the necessary instructions. Without this alert, your hospital caregivers may not realize for days or until a relative arrives that you have dependent pets at home. A Health Care Directive form that I particularly like is the “Five Wishes Health Care Directive”, available through AgingWithDignity.org. This is an excellent document with plenty of room to not only specify pet care instructions, but many other details that you would find comforting in a health crisis or preparing for the end of life. Again, these may be difficult issues for you to think about but I’ve heard from clients repeatedly how beautiful a gift it is, to have loved ones that prepared thoughtful and complete legal documents.
Yet another document to consider is a Health Care Directive for your pet. This will remove the burden your appointee caregiver would have to guess about your intentions for your pet.
Using a personal example, my horse had a dangerous and sudden intestinal condition called colic a few years ago. I determined at that time that I would not pursue extensive colic surgery for him. It also made me determine that in the future should he have a relapse, I would still make the same decision. I need to create a Health Care Directive for my horse and include these instructions. My decision was based on the temperament of my horse and his inability to withstand the difficult recovery from a colic surgery. This particular factor would not likely be known unless I was to document it for my appointee.
If you’re a pet owner, taking steps to ensure your loved pet will be cared for during an unexpected crisis is opportunity for creating real peace of mind for you and your human loved ones.