What Happens to My Pet When I Die?
I met with a 92-year young lady the other day regarding how she wanted to protect her cat if she should pass before the cat. She strongly suggested that my next column educate readers about the options available in this situation, so here we go.
The first step is to contact an estate planning attorney to create a last will and testament, so your wishes for your family, pets, etc., are legally protected and executed. I am biased and would recommend Mel Stack, but there are other attorneys also available. In my opinion, Mel is the best!
Your last will and testament will designate who will be the executor of your estate. An executor (or executrix) of an estate is appointed to administer a deceased person's estate. The executor's main duty is to carry out the instructions to manage the deceased person's estate's affairs and wishes.
In the case of the 92-year young lady (I'll call her Mrs. M), she has no family and wants to make sure her cat that she has raised since he was just a kitten seven-teen years ago is cared for in a new and loving home. She has set monies aside to care for the cat's needs, including veterinary care and end of life services when the time comes. Her attorney, which happens to be Mel Stack, suggested she meet with me to discuss caregiver options for her cat.
An associate and I talked with Mrs. M. about possible options for her cat. She verified that she had no one she could entrust or who would be available to take the cat upon her passing. She was very fearful that if she passed at home, the EMTs might leave the door wide open to her home when leaving, and her cat would leave home and be lost. Our task was to help her find a foster family for her cat that would eventually place the cat into a new, loving, forever home. We are in the process of contacting foster parents, so Mrs. M. can rest easy knowing her cat will be in good hands.
Sometimes people overlook the obvious as an option for their pet. Many people use a pet sitter's services on occasion, and these service providers usually have entry to the home. Ask your pet sitter if they would be comfortable taking your pet and rehoming it. Neighbors are also an option for short-term care. Most everyone has a neighbor who has an extra house key available in case you get locked out. This neighbor may also be agreeable to taking on the responsibility of rehoming your pet. In either case, make sure the pet sitter or neighbor has your attorney's contact information.
The estate attorney is assigned a power of attorney (if no suitable kin is available), and they will act as the executor of the estate. In this case, the attorney will issue monies to the foster and then to the new home to be used specifically for the cat's care. How these monies are distributed will be determined by the attorney in accordance with the wishes of his client.
Most people have a family member or close friend that they can rely on to be executors of their estate and distribute their assets to the parties predetermined by the deceased, but suppose the deceased has no family or close friends? In that case, they may elect to leave their assets to an organization like Halifax Humane Society or the American Cancer Society, or the organization of their choice that touches their heart.
In summary, if you are being proactive (as you should) and wish to prepare for the lives of others after your passing, contact an estate attorney, draw up a last will and testament, appoint an executor, detail the assets you wish to leave people or an organization, make arrangements for your pets, and give a copy of your will to your doctor and hospital, so they know your intentions (DNR orders, next of kin, etc.) and who to contact in the circumstance of your passing. Lastly, as always, adopt, don't shop.