When his prognosis appeared poor, his sister, who didn’t want the dogs, had them all euthanized.
More than a decade later, Joe still regrets not specifically laying out a plan for his three beloved canines. Not only were they not there when he finally came home from rehab, what happened to them put him in a negative frame of mind, which also set his own recovery back.
Joe isn’t alone. A recent survey of pet owners conducted by the ASPCA found that only 17 percent legally provide for their pets in their wills or in a pet trust.
The ASPCA recognized that one of the barriers to having a legally binding pet trust drawn up, especially by seniors, is the cost, which could be in the thousands of dollars.
That’s one of the benefits of the recent partnership between the ASPCA and LegalZoom.com. The two organizations have created a legal binding pet protection agreement, which allows pet parents the peace of mind that their pets will be legally protected in the event of incapacity or death.
Kim Bressant-Kibwe, counsel for Trust and Estates and Planned Giving for the ASPCA, says that 46 states have laws in place to allow for pet trusts, but it isn’t uncommon for people to not be able to find attorneys who know how to draw up a pet trust, or find one willing.
A pet protection agreement will do the same as a pet trust, says Bressant-Kibwe. It provides for the care of all your current and future pets; allows pet owners to leave funds from his/her estate for pets; and nominates pet guardians or a shelter. Prices start at just $39 and go up to $79, which allow you to make unlimited changes for one year and provide for electronic storage of the document.
You may not think you need such a document, as your children or grandchildren may have already agreed to care for your pets when something happens. Think again. “We cannot assume our relatives or friends would provide for our pets,” says Bressant-Kibwe. “As we saw, Leona Helmsley’s brother didn’t even want her dog.”
In order to provide for your pet, Bressant-Kibwe says you should follow these steps to ensure all of your bases are covered:
- Go to the at ASPCA website to read about the benefits of a pet trust or pet protection agreement.
- Ask someone you know to act as a pet guardian for your pet. Don’t let it be a surprise to them if something unexpected should happen to you.
- Draw up the pet protection agreement or pet trust.
- Coordinate all of your estate planning documents, including your last will and testament, your life insurance policies, and other financial plans. This is important, says Bressant-Kibwe. “The pet protection agreement reinforces what’s in your will, so make sure if you’re making duplicate arrangements that all of the documents and beneficiaries are consistent.”
~ By Kerri Fivecoat Campbell
* Name changed.