Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice

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Who will care for my pet when I am gone?

April 26, 2019

Q: Who will care for my pet when I am gone?

A: When facing a life-limiting illness many patients worry about who will take care of their beloved pets once they are gone.

Having a plan in place can help ease some of the worry and anxiety. Some options include: a will provision, a pet trust, a DIY pet protection agreement or an informal agreement with a family member or friend.

Every year between five and seven million companion animals enter animal shelters due to the death of their owners, reports the American Human Association. Of these, approximately three to four million are euthanized (60% of dogs and 70% of cats) when adequate homes cannot be found for them. Older pet owners usually have older pets that can be hard to find adoptive homes for.

Placing a pet in a shelter who has spent most of its life in a loving home, sharing a bed, sitting on the couch surrounded by its toys and memories can be very stressful to the pet. If no provisions have been made and no family or friends are able to step forward and care for the pet, a “no-kill” pet rescue organization like Father John’s Animal House in Lafayette can be an option to help the pet find a new home.

If you are caring for a pet whose owner has already died it’s important to evaluate if you have the financial means, space or time to take care of the pet. Also, find out if there are any provisions made for the pet in the owners will. These provisions can be helpful in providing financially for a pet’s care over the long-term.

Also, since a will goes into effect only upon your death, it cannot provide care for your pets if you become seriously ill.

A pet trust is a legal process that transfers ownership of your pets to a trust, which includes instructions for their care and money to pay for it. You name a caregiver, and you appoint a trustee to oversee that care and any related expenses. If you do not name a caregiver and trustee, the State of New Jersey will do so. Pet trusts are valid in the state of New Jersey.

If you opt for a living pet trust, as opposed to one that kicks in after you die, you provide for your pets if you become unable to care for them because of serious illness.

A DIY Pet Protection Agreement like the one available through LegalZoom, is valid in all states. This legal document allows you to specify a caregiver for your pets and leave money for their care. A Pet Protection Agreement is a contract between the pet owner and the pet guardian. The signature of both parties on the agreement makes it legal.

You can also set up an informal arrangement with a trusted family member or friend to take your pets when you die. It cost nothing to come to such an arrangement. You should make sure all family members and friends know about the agreement and will not put up a fight for your pets too. With this type of agreement, you have no control over the care of your pets after you die.

Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice sponsoring an “Our Pet, Advance Care Planning” Workshop on Friday, May 3, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Senior Life Center at SCCC. This FREE, informative workshop will host a panel of experts to review how to make sure your wishes for your pet are carried out if you are no longer with us. It will also cover topics on how to care for a pet who is facing a life-limiting illness, how to cope with your anticipatory grief and some options for honoring and memorializing your pet when they pass away. Those interested can register online at karenannquinlanhospice.org/OurPets or call 973-383-0115 ext. 145.

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