1. Pet Alert for Wallet – A pet alert card should be placed in your wallet to notify emergency personnel that you have a pet at home in case you are in an accident and become incapacitated. The pet alert card should state your pet’s name, what type of animal they are, what your address is, who they may contact to take care of your pet, special instructions, and name and contact number for your veterinarian.
2. Pet Profile – A pet profile is a document that you can keep in your home that any person, including emergency personnel, would be able to find in order to take care of your pet. This is a longer document than the pet alert and it contains specific information about your pet. Each pet should have its own pet profile document. The document should include the following information:
a. Pet’s name, sex, if they are sprayed or neutered, type of distinguishing marks, license number, microchip
b. Person to notify in case of emergency, name, address, phone, list back up individuals
c. Veterinarian’s name, address, phone number
d. Can your pet be transported easy, if not what will help transport the pet, is there a pet carrier, where is it located, where are the leases, muzzle, harness
e. Information about what your pet’s likes and dislikes, type of food your pet eats, where are the pet’s toys, supplies, food, treats, any other special instruction
f. What medication is your pet taking, what dose does your pet need, who supplied the medication and how to get refills, is your pet vaccination up to date
g. Does your pet have daytime routines or night time routines, does your pet get along with other animals, children, elderly people; is your pet aggressive or have bad habits
h. Information on pet insurance
i. Information concerning a Power of Attorney, Will, or Trust that dictates what happens when you pass away
j. Any other information that will assist in taking care of your pets
3. Pet Insurance – Pet insurance has become a big business and just like human health insurance there are many types of plans to choose from, here are a few. Whole pet with wellness may include expenses like: exams, lab test, x-rays, prescriptions, surgeries, hospitalization, chronic conditions, hereditary conditions, wellness, etc. Major Medical may include expenses like: exams, lab test, x-rays, prescriptions, surgeries, hospitalization, chronic conditions, and hereditary conditions. Pet Wellness may include expenses like: wellness exams & test, flea/heartworm prevention and vaccinations. Each insurance company might call it by a different name.
After you determine what expenses you would like covered you must decide what type of reimbursement you would like either percentage of an invoice or a benefit schedule. A percentage of invoice is based on the treatment cost and you will get back a percentage of what you paid the vet. Benefit schedule is capped at a set amount for each condition and it does not matter what the total cost is you will still only receive the capped amount.
Whatever type of insurance you decide to purchase make sure you know what is covered and not covered. When choosing a company make sure the company has a record of being dependable and get quotes.
After you get the coverage make sure you keep a copy with your pet records, pet profile, estate planning documents, and a copy with your vet.
4. Pet Guardian – A pet guardian may be a friend, company, or the humane society that will take care of your pet on a temporary or permanent basis when you are not able too. If it is a company or humane society they will have you complete documents allowing themselves to make all the decision about your pet health, maintenance, and care. In additional, they will require you to either reimburse them after the fact, make a down payment, or have you leave them funds after you pass away. It is very important to investigate these places completely to make sure they live up to the standards of what you want for your pet’s care.
5. Pet Power of Attorney – A pet power of attorney can be part of your Financial Power of Attorney but many times this is a separate document just for your pet. The document should state who is going to be the caregiver of your pet when you can’t. A backup caregiver (or more) should be listed in case your primary caregiver can’t or won’t take care of your pet. This document should allow the caregiver to make all medical decision for your pet including treating disease, illness, or injuries. It should state what type of last wishes you have for your pet. How the cost of treatment and last wishes will be paid for by you or your estate. The document should state whether you will allow the caregiver to rehouse your pet and any other authority your agent will need to take care of your pet. Many times specific agencies will have documents for you to sign or you can contact your attorney to include language in your Financial Power of Attorney (which you should already have). A Financial Power of Attorney is only good while you are living, after you pass away you need to make additional provision for your pet.
6. Include Pet in Wills – You may include instruction in your Last Will and Testament for a caregiver (and backup caregiver) and provide funds for a caregiver to take care of your pet. If you do not provide any instructions, then whoever you name as a residuary beneficiary will be the person who gets your pet. Residuary beneficiary is the person(s) that will receive the remainder of your assets after your specific bequests. The problem with leaving instructions in your Will is that your Will must go through probate court first. Probate court can be costly, time consuming, it becomes public record, and very stressful, even for your pet. A Will does not allow for disbursement over the life time of your pet. Money is given in one lump sum. Unfortunately, there are some people who will take the lump sum and leave your pet at the shelter or worse have your euthanized.
7. Pet Trust - A pet trust is legal in all 50 states but each state might have specific laws regarding trust like how much money you can leave to a trust. A trust is a legal document that will allow you to name a person or corporation as the trustee (manager) of the trust’s assets. You will nominate a caretaker or new owner of the trust. Always pick backup trustees and caretakers. You will state what the trustee is allowed to reimburse the caretaker for the pet’s expenses. You must leave some type of assets that can be sold or financial assets to pay for your pet’s care. You must determine how much to leave to the trust so that your pet’s needs are adequately cared for. In the document you will explain the type of care you want for your pet during its lifetime and what will happen after the pet passes away. Also, you will identify what you would like done medically for the pet in case the pet needs major medical attention or needs to be put to sleep. If there is any assets left after your pet passes away you will want to name a beneficiary for those assets.
8. Pet Cremation and Sanctuary – After your pet passes away you will want to make arrangements for your pet’s body. Some people allow the veterinarian to make the arrangements and other’s want to make all of the arrangements by themselves. Just like humans, you can have funeral and memorial services, caskets, urns, lots, cremations, flowers, dinners and have your pet’s body placed in a sanctuary which is the same thing as a cemetery for pets. Lots of choose for pet owners to make and many companies lets you make and prepay for these services ahead of time. In addition, some companies will create memorials that include a copy of your pet’s paws on jewelry or molds, jewelry to contain ashes, picture frames, memorial rocks, etc.
Your pet is a significant member of your family and it is important that you make arrangements for your pet when you can’t make decisions anymore. It is imperative that you have a say in your pet’s care, this can be done by powers of attorney, wills, trust, and guardianships. If you don’t make arrangements ahead of time then your pet could be caught up in the legal system and your wishes will never be known. The last thing you want is your pet to be scared and not taken care of or worse yet end up in a shelter or be euthanized. Remember and take care of your pet, they love you and are part of your family!