When we’re young, we think we’re going to live forever, but the older we get, we know it’s not so. And while none of us likes to face the inevitable, end-of-life planning is essential for those we leave behind.
I got a first-hand experience of this when my mother passed away last January. While I was grieving her loss, I was also responsible for handling her affairs.
I wrote back then about how grateful I was that my mother took the time to have a will and other important documents prepared and signed before we needed them, but I promised to get back to you on a vitally important issue that didn’t apply to her situation at the time.
End-of-life planning, and for that matter, emergency planning, must include our pets.
It doesn’t matter whether we have a dog, cat, horse or goldfish, any pet living with us and/or depending on us for care and sustenance must be provided for. This means designating a person or persons who will assume care transitionally, and those who will then do so on a permanent basis. Another option is to sign up with a charitable organization’s program to provide or find your pet a home.
In Florida, pets are considered property, so if we die and leave them behind, they’re automatically part of our estates. They’re sentient beings who cannot wait for our final affairs to be settled through probate or the execution of other notarized documents. They need immediate care.
I can’t imagine my dogs, both of whom are seniors, being turned over to Animal Services because I didn’t make arrangements for them in advance of my incapacitation or death. Abby is almost 16 years old and has special needs. She undoubtedly would be euthanized. On the other hand, Shelby, who’s 9, personable and in good health, might be lucky enough to be adopted.
Even if you don’t have a will, you can arrange for a family member or friend to care for your pet on a temporary or permanent basis.
They’ll need to be on your emergency contact list, have a key to your home and be provided with written feeding instructions, your pet’s veterinarian’s contact info with a letter of authorization for future medical treatment, special care instructions and any permanent care provisions you’ve made. Your neighbors, friends and relatives should know the names and phone numbers of these emergency caregivers.
You should carry a card with you at all times as to who should be called about your pet should an emergency befall you. This same information needs to be posted in your home for emergency personnel or others to discover.
Here are a couple of other important considerations:
• If you have multiple pets, do you want them to go to one person or be separated and go to different folks?
• Does the person or persons whom you’ve designated to care for your pets permanently have the financial resources to take care of your pets’ needs?
Can you leave them any money to help the permanent caregiver? You can designate funds to be distributed in your trust, will or notarized document.
The ASPCA has a free, pet-planning packet you can order to have mailed to you for help in making these important arrangements. Simply visit https://bit.ly/3DgVUOg and fill out the short form. I ordered one myself, just in case I’ve forgotten anything.
We can’t assume we’re going to outlive our pets, People, so just as we would our children, we need to make sure they’ll be in good hands, loved and financially cared for should our demise precede theirs.
It’s the least we can do in return for their trust, loyalty and meaningful contributions to our lives.
Lois Kindle is a freelance writer and columnist for The Observer News. Contact her at email@example.com.