If something horrible happened to your humans... for instance if they got into a car crash and died, or went into a long term coma... who would take care of you pets?
At Almost Home Foundation, whenever someone over the age of 70 wants to adopt a pet, they have to designate someone who is willing to sign a form saying they'll take over care for the pet if anything happens to the senior citizen. I think that's a good idea because the over 70 crowd is more at risk of things like heart attacks, strokes, etc... and while we all know that just having a pet can reduce that risk, it is important to make sure that an adopted pet doesn't end up in another shelter, or put to sleep, if something does happen to the elderly owner.
Older humans aren't the only ones who die, though. We all hate talking about it. I hate the idea of losing Mama, as much as she hates the idea of losing me! But it could happen. And if it did, who would take care of me, Trixie and Lily? Of course we have Gramma and Grampa who would automatically take care of us, but if they weren't around, who would be next on the list?
Some humans handle this by setting up a pet trust fund. There are a few humans who get a little carried away with this. For instance, the actress Betty White plans to leave her $5 million estate to her pets! (We hope some human is going to live in that estate with them, since pets have trouble going to the store to buy pet food, filling their own water dishes, and stuff like that!)
We don't expect Mama, Gramma or Grampa to leave us the house. Most humans handle things more simply, by adding a few lines in their will naming guardians for their pets, and by possibly leaving a trust fund that would be given to the new guardians in order to pay for the pets' care.
Sixteen states allow people to set up a legally enforceable pet trust. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. (Not Illinois! Boo!) In these states, you can put together a very specific trust that outlines how your pets should be taken care of. If your dog goes to doggie day care, and you want him to be able to keep on going there every day, you can state that. If your four cats are very attached to each other and you want them kept together, you can state it. You can specify everything from what your pet should be fed, to where he will sleep, to how many walks a day he should be taken on. You should also name a few people who would be willing to carry on these wishes. (Is there a friend or family member who will promise to either adopt all four cats, or foster them until she finds a wonderful adoptive home for all of them together? Does the person willing to adopt your dog actually live somewhere near the doggie daycare your dog loves?) Adding a fund will make sure that the people in charge of caring for your pets get paid a certain amount of money, on a regular basis, for the rest of your pets' lives. It is also a good idea to decide a "remainder beneficiary." That just means, if your pet dies, and the money you left for his care has not run out, someone else can get it. You might name the caregiver you chose for the pet, or the animal shelter you adopted the pet from, for instance.
If you don't live in one of the states that enforces pet trusts, you could still make arrangements for your pets! This works best if you have people you trust and you know will carry out your wishes. Simply add a clause to your will naming someone (and maybe a back-up person as well) who you want your pets to live with if you die. Then you can leave the instructions for the pets care to that person, along with the amount of money you think will be necessary for the pets' lifetimes of care.
Both a pet trust, and a will, are legal documents, so you should prepare them with the help of an attorney. You should always make sure to talk with everyone who you plan to involve in your pets' care. Learning that your great aunt has died and, as a surprise, left you in charge of her seven dogs, twelve cats, four parakeets and two horses might make a funny movie, but in real life it will put your pets at risk! Talk to the people you love about how they care for pets, and what they'd be willing to do for your pets. (If your brother hates cats, or your daughter's dog training methods are way different from yours, find someone else to care for your pets!)
A third way to do this, without necessarily needing a lawyer, is to enter into a Pet Protection Agreement. Basically, this is just a legally binding contract between you and a person you choose. It specifies everything you want for your pets, and the amount of money you would like to leave the person. You can also specify whether you want the plan to be put into action if you are incapacitated, have to go to a nursing home where no pets are allowed, etc. You and the other person both sign it. That makes it legally binding. A good place to do this online without an attorney is at Legal Zoom. There is a small fee, but not as much as an attorney. Legal Zoom asks you to name two or three people (one person to be the guardian if anything happens to you, and one or two extra people to take over if anything happens to that person) and also an organization or shelter that you'd like to leave the pets to if all of the other people are unable to take care of them. (That's pretty unlikely, but you should cover all your bases!)
Hopefully, nothing will ever happen to your humans, and you will never have to worry about going to live with someone else. But you should still talk to your humans about this, just in case something happens to them. It will give you all peace of mind, knowing that you'll be safe and cared for no matter what!
I hope you liked this Smarty Sunday! Now tell your humans to take good care of themselves and stay safe so that they never have to use this information!