Legal Issues Regarding Pet Loss

Short-term Power of Attorney for Pet Care

Every good pet owner makes sure their pet is cared for by a responsible party when they’re traveling. However, accidents happen and pets can become ill unexpectedly.

With your pet’s best interest in mind, it’s wise to create a Power of Attorney for Pet Care (POAPC). This simple form gives your pet’s caregiver a document stating that he or she has legal authority to make decisions if your pet needs veterinary care. The recipient gains the power to act on behalf of your pet and to assure that all of your pet’s needs are met. This document protects the caregiver as well as the agent — and assures the directives of the person you have chosen to care for your pet are respected.

You can create a Power of Attorney for Pet Care by completing a simple form. You will need to select a person to act as your pet caretaker/agent in your absence. You should also select an alternate caretaker.

Long-term Pet Care: Wills and Trusts

Pet_Couple_with_dog.jpgSince your pet is considered part of the family, it’s logical to address his or her care and future security as you would for any family member. Unfortunately, even pet owners who create a will often fail to make formal arrangements for their pets who then become vulnerable to being placed in shelters and being euthanized. This happens to thousands of pets each year. In fact, about 40 states currently have pet-trust laws which allow pet owners to create a trust that addresses their pet’s long-term security.

Creating a legal document to ensure your pet is cared for if you die or become disabled is important for the welfare of your animal, but a simple will is not the best approach. A will forces assets to be administered through probate, which takes time — sometimes months or years — and allows assets to be frozen for the duration. This jeopardizes payments to pet caregivers.

Without planning, decisions regarding pets are determined according to laws. Therefore, you can not bequeath money to your pet in a will. Furthermore, identifying a caretaker for your pet is only a wish and not enforceable by the courts.

A Pet Trust

To protect your pet in the event of your death or disability, you should establish a pet trust. Establishing a pet trust designates specific funds, separate from your will, so that money is available to care for your pet. The trust can even be in effect on a given date and address care during a disability.

There are two types of trusts: a traditional pet trust is valid in all states. A statutory pet trust is subject to the laws of individual states. Trusts involve three parties: The grantor, who gives funds to a trustee; the trustee who distributes the designated amount of funds to the caregiver on a regular basis; and the caregiver who ensures that your pet is cared for according to the specifications you state in the trust.

To ensure your pet’s long-term care, find two people you can rely on to act as the trustee and another who is willing to care for your pet. The designated caregiver should have access to your home and be aware of your pet’s needs. This means that even if your Doberman is determined to protect your home, seeing the arrival of his or her guardian will inspire tail wagging, not growling.

The trust should be as detailed as possible. Be sure to note your pet’s:

  • Health history
  • Medications and health conditions
  • Fears and behavioral challenges
  • Eating habits and dietary considerations
  • Toys
  • Unique behaviors
  • Daily schedule
  • Grooming routine
  • Favorite activities and motivators
  • Veterinarian contact info
  • Final wishes for your pet upon death.
  • Duration of the trust (it must have a limited time in order to be valid).

This information should guide your pet’s caregiver to provide as seamless experience as possible if you are unable to care for your pet. The trust ensures that you’ve done everything possible to protect the interests of your cherished animal.