When the time comes, and eventually it will for every one of us, we will depart this mortal coil and leave behind our worldly possessions. Under the law, our pets are considered property and in the event of our death they become a part of our estate. We owe it to them to make the proper legal arrangements for who will care for them after our passing and name that person as the beneficiary of your dog in your will.
It’s not always an easy to decide who you will name as the person to whom you will leave the responsibility of your pet’s care. In addition, will you provide this person with the necessary funds (possibly in the form of a pet trust) to maintain the standard of care your dog is accustomed to and cover any unexpected expenses related to their care as they arise? Ideally our pets will pass into the loving care of a spouse or partner or someone they know well, which can be the least disruptive to our animals and potentially bring great comfort to our loved ones. However, you must honestly ask yourself whether this person (and possibly the other members of their family) will want to assume the responsibility for your dog and if they will be able to do so physically, financially and emotionally.
If your dog has ongoing medical, behavioural, exercise or even grooming needs this can make taking on their care even more of a weighty request. The costs of feeding, grooming, dog walkers, boarding during vacations and veterinary bills can have a significant impact on a person’s yearly budget and whomever you ask must be made aware of what your dog requires ahead of time. Providing your designated caregiver with adequate financial compensation can alleviate this concern.
If you have not arranged for someone to take on this responsibility, after you pass there may be no one who steps forward to assume the care of your pet and a well-meaning friend or relative or the executor of your estate may place the dog in a shelter or with a rescue. This can be an extremely traumatic transition for your dog and one that can be avoided with proper preparation. Naming the caregiver and the specific sum of money allocated to care for the dog will also avoid any potential fights, legal expenses and delays.
If you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, you signed a contract that requires you to return your dog to the breeder if you are no longer able to care for your dog. In this case you should reach out to your breeder when making your plan. Caring and responsible breeders will gladly take back any dog they have bred for the lifetime of that dog. Make sure you detail in your will that this is what should happen to your pet in the event of your passing and provide current contact information for the breeder so that arrangements can be made to return your pet to them. A good breeder will want what is best for your dog so if you would prefer your dog pass into the care of a willing and capable family member or friend, they will no doubt support that decision and simply wish to be made aware of whom the dog will be living with. This will allow them to maintain contact with the dog’s new owner and offer support if needed.
It’s a grim subject but death or even the inability to continue to care for our pets can happen to any of us at any time and having a plan for this in advance should bring you great peace of mind. If you haven’t already done so, please make this a priority. As we move into the new year, have the conversation with whomever you feel would be the best-appointed owner of your dog and if they agree to the responsibly, contact a notary or lawyer and have the necessary amendments made to your will. Finally, remember to update your will every couple of years or so as circumstances can change not only for those who agreed to become the beneficiary of your dog, but also the requirements of your dog may change. These changes could necessitate an update to your original plan.
Don't forget to add your dog to your will.
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