If you have a furry friend, you know your pet relies on you for every need. What would your pet do without you? Although pets are legally considered to be property, to those of us who own pets, they're more like members of the family. And so, just as you make preparations to care for the human members of your family after your passing, you need to think about how to look after your pets as well.
Here are some options that can help you ensure your pets are cared for if something happens to you:
Create A Pet Trust
Of all the options available, a Pet Trust is the most extensive. Creating a trust for your pet typically involves choosing a caregiver and a trustee who will receive assets after your death to care for your pets. Often times, the caregiver will be a trusted friend, relative, or animal professional. The trustee will use the assets to pay for the pet's expenses and make sure your pet receives the proper treatment from the caregiver.
 One of the advantages of a Pet Trust is that it will take effect if you become disabled or are no longer able to care for your pet in your home. When your Pet Trust is written, it is important to be as detailed as possible and to name all of the expenses you want to be covered by your trust.
Include Your Pets In Your Will
If you don't want to set up a formal trust, you can leave your pet, along with a sum of money, to someone who has agreed to take your pet. The main drawback of this method is that your pet might not be cared for right away since it can take time for the instructions in your will to be carried out. Another concern is that there is no guarantee that your pet care provisions will actually be enacted by your pet's caregiver. Note: To ensure your wishes are met, you can supplement your will with a Pet Trust.
Send Your Pet To A Continuing Pet Care Program
Although not available everywhere, there is also the option to leave your pet in a Continuing Pet Care Program. For a nondeductible enrollment fee and a large donation, your pet will receive lifetime care or will be given an adoptive home.
 These programs may be available through your local veterinary school or no-kill shelter.
 The obvious drawback of this option is that you're relying on strangers to evaluate adoptive homes and care for your beloved pet.
Add Pets To Your Durable Power of Attorney (DPA)
Another option is to add your pet to your Durable Power of Attorney. The agent you name in your DPA can then make decisions regarding your pet, such as paying for pet care or choosing a caregiver during your lifetime.
 You will still need to make arrangements for pet care after your death.
How We Can Help
Whatever route you take, leave specific instructions for future caregivers. Who is your pet's vet? Where do you take your pet to be groomed? What brand of food does your pet eat? Which toy can they not live without? No one knows your pet like you do, so share everything you can.
Whether you choose to use any of the suggestions we've made in this letter, leave some form of instructions for the care of your pet in case something happens to you. Don't leave your pet's future to chance. Legal matters related to your pet's care are best handled by a qualified attorney; if you don't currently work with an attorney, we'd be happy to recommend one. While we are not attorneys, we are happy to assist you with ensuring that your pet care plans are supported by adequate assets. Please give us a call at (269) 978-0238
if we can assist you with this in any way.
Zack Alkhamis CRPC?, CIS?, CFS?
Matthew Jarrell, CIS?, CFS?
Timothy A. McAfee, CPA?, CFP?, MST