If your client has a severe illness or accident or passes away, who will look after their pet? There are many ways to ensure that a client’s pet continues to have a loving home, and the process begins with finding the right caregiver.
Guardian of Their Minor Children
If your clients also have minor children, the nominated guardian of their 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 the client’s children, so they may also be willing to take care of the client’s 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 your client discuss this with their nominated guardian to ensure that they are willing to undertake the additional responsibility.
Family or Friends
When selecting a caregiver for their pet, most people look to a trusted family member or friend. This person has probably spent time with the pet and knows their typical routines and behaviors, making them more comfortable taking on the responsibility. This choice may also provide a pet with a familiar environment. However, caring for a pet is a big responsibility that requires clients to consider the following in a potential caregiver:
- Does this person’s lifestyle, home, and comfort level with pets make them a good fit for caregiving?
- Do they already have other pets? If yes, do the pets 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?
Animal Welfare Organizations
Sometimes, family and friends are not available to help. Animal welfare organizations such as shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries, or foundations can take your client’s pet and find a suitable home. They should locate reputable organizations in the area and visit them to assess their cleanliness, staff interactions with animals, and overall environment. Pet owners should select an organization they feel can provide a safe and comfortable space for their pet while waiting to be placed in a loving permanent home. Your client might also consider whether the organization mandates euthanasia if the pet is not adoptable. Creating a comprehensive profile of the pet, including their medical history, behavior, preferences, and any special needs, with photographs and videos, could make the adoption process easier for the organization.
Executor’s or Trustee’s Choice
Depending on the client’s situation, the client may feel more comfortable giving the person who winds down their affairs (the executor or trustee) the authority to choose the most suitable home for their pet animals. Because things can change unexpectedly, providing this level of flexibility can help ensure that the client’s pet goes to a suitable, loving home, even if it is not a home that was initially considered by the client.
Memorialize the Client’s Wishes in Their Estate Plan
Your client must memorialize the caretaker of their pets in their estate plan, typically in a will or trust, and keep this information easily accessible to the designated caretaker. They must also let family members, executors, or trustees know the location of any necessary documentation to care for the pet.
Make sure the client reviews their estate planning documents annually for any changes in your client’s circumstances, their pet’s health, behavior, routines, or preferences. We are available to meet with your clients if they are having trouble selecting the right pet caretaker or want to discuss the best way to protect their pet. Give us a call to schedule a time to discuss ways we can partner together to serve clients with pets.