6 Things You Need to Do Now to Protect Your Beloved Pets

Posted by ANGELA RICH HARTMANN | Jun 26, 2024 | 0 Comments

Pets sometimes outlive their owners. If you suffer an accident or illness, it could leave your cat, dog, horse, iguana, or any other pet without a caregiver, which, without proper planning, could result in your beloved pet being sent to an animal rescue or shelter that is not of your choosing. Take a few steps to protect your beloved pet's future and ensure they are always cared for, no matter what happens. 

1. Carefully Choose a Pet Caregiver

Talk to more than one trusted person until you find someone willing to physically care for your pet if something happens to you. If you have more than one candidate, select one as your backup in case circumstances change—a caregiver can move, change their mind, or pass away. Caregivers must have the right environment to receive your pet and accommodate their daily needs. 

Guardian of Your Minor Children

If you also have minor children, the nominated guardian of your minor children can be a good first choice to take care of the family pet. The guardian is already taking on the large responsibility of caring for your children, so they may also be willing to take care of your pet. In addition, having the beloved family pet stay with the children may comfort them during a difficult time in their lives. It is important that you discuss this with your nominated guardian to ensure that they are willing to undertake the additional responsibility.

Family or Friends

When selecting a caregiver for your pet, most people look to a trusted family member or friend who may be willing to care for them. This person has probably spent time with your pet and already knows their typical routines and behaviors, making them more comfortable taking on the responsibility. This choice may also provide your pet with a familiar environment. However, taking on a new furry family member is a big responsibility that requires some considerations:

  • Does their lifestyle, home, and comfort with pets make them a good fit for caregiving? 

  • Do they already have other pets? If yes, do they get along with each other?

  • Do they understand the expectations and level of care that the pet requires? 

  • Are there specific instructions or preferences they may not be able to accommodate?

  • Can they afford the financial responsibility of supporting a pet?

Executor's or Trustee's Choice

Depending on your situation, you may feel more comfortable with giving the person who winds down your affairs (the executor or trustee) the authority to choose the most suitable home for your pet. Because things can change unexpectedly, providing this level of flexibility can help ensure that your pet goes to a suitable, loving home, even if it is not a home that you initially considered.

2. Create a List of Emergency Contacts

Just like people, pets likely have professionals that should be called in an emergency. This can include their primary veterinarian and any specialist they may be seeing. You may also want to include the contact information for any boarding facilities you have used in the past or pet sitters that come to your home when you cannot take your pet with you.

3. Create a List of Your Pet's Medications

Like people, some animals need medications to cure a temporary illness or supplements to manage a chronic condition. It is important that you have a list of these medications and times when they are administered to make sure that whoever is caring for your pet is prepared to administer them.

4. Create a Budget for Your Pet's Needs 

Your checklist should include monthly or annual expenses for your pet, including the following:

  • Regular pet food purchases 

  • Treats 

  • Recommended supplements or vitamins 

  • Routine veterinary checkups and vaccinations

  • Preventive medications (flea, tick, heartworm)

  • Dental cleanings and care

  • Prescription medications for chronic conditions or illnesses

  • Haircuts or professional grooming services

  • Litter, litter boxes, waste bags

  • Toys and enrichment items

  • Pet insurance premiums

  • Boarding

  • Training or obedience classes

  • Travel expenses

  • Licensing

Developing this budget will help you estimate costs that a caregiver may have to shoulder or allow you to set aside an appropriate amount of money in your estate plan (either outright to the caretaker or in a pet trust) to cover expenses for your pet's expected lifetime based on age, health, and breed.

5. Research Local Shelters

In some instances, animal welfare organizations such as shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries, or foundations can take your pet and find a suitable home. Look for reputable organizations in the area and visit them to assess their cleanliness, staff interactions with animals, and overall environment. The organization must provide a safe and comfortable space while locating a loving permanent home. You should also consider whether this organization euthanizes pets that are not adopted and whether that plays into your choice of organization. Creating a comprehensive profile of your pet, including their medical history, behavior, preferences, and any special needs, with photographs and videos of the pet, could make the adoption process easier for the organization.

Although you do not want your pet to end up in a shelter if something happens to you, it is important that you plan for all contingencies. By researching local shelters and pet rescues, you can take control of your pet's future by knowing which one would be acceptable in the event your family or friends cannot take your pet. This is a decision that we can document in your estate plan so that your trusted decision-makers know your wishes.

6. Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Armed with a detailed list of expenses and critical information, you will be prepared to share it with potential pet caregivers if you experience a medical emergency and can no longer care for your pet. The best way to do this is with legal documentation. Take this information to an estate planning attorney to create a will or pet trust with a letter of instruction for your pet caregiver. Let your pet caregiver know you have a will naming them the beneficiary of your pet or as the trustee of a funded pet trust to help them with caretaking expenses. Give them the name and contact information of your executor, trustee, and estate planning attorney so they can access a copy of your documents when necessary.

If your pet outlives you, a trusted caretaker will have what they need to ensure a loving environment. By taking the right steps, you will be helping your family members, friends, or local pet welfare agencies provide the best possible care for your pet. 

Make Your Wishes Known in Your Estate Plan

By proactively planning, you can make financial and care arrangements for your pet's care well in advance, making the transition easier on everyone involved. 

Once everything is clearly documented for your pet's care in either a will or trust, you must keep your legal documents and any other pertinent information easily accessible to the designated caretaker and ensure it is kept up to date. Let family members, executors, or trustees know the location of any necessary documentation to care for your pet.

Make sure you review your estate plan annually for any changes in your circumstances, your pet's health, behavior, routines, or preferences. We are available to help you if you are having trouble selecting the right pet caretaker or want to discuss the best way to protect your pet. Give us a call to schedule a time to discuss ways we can protect your beloved pet.

Contact Hartmann Law Today

If you have questions about estate planning for your pet, contact our office to speak to an estate planning attorney.

Take steps to start your Life and Legacy planning today!  Take action to ensure your voice is heard when you are unable to speak for yourself.  Make the decision to protect yourself, your loved ones, your business, your property.   

Schedule a call today with Hartmann Law.

Hartmann Law provides Life and Legacy plans ready for today with an eye on the future.


Life and Legacy Plans created by design and not by default!

About the Author


Angela Rich Hartmann is a New Jersey attorney serving clients in the areas of estate, business, and real estate law.


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