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by | May 3, 2022 | Estate Plan, Firm News

What Happens to a Pet When Their Owner Dies? 

Dog in a tutu

When people think about their estate plan, they think about protecting their loved ones like their kids, siblings, or parents. But for many people, our loved ones also include our loveable furry friends… our pets! Many potential issues arise for pet owners and their furry friends when their pets  — dogs, cats, parrots, horses, desert tortoises, koi fish, we could go on and on, there are so many different pets we love.

When a pet owner is hospitalized or dies. What happens to the person’s pets? Your dog, cat, bird, or horse will need someone with the authority to take over care but consider the legal ramifications for this.

  • Can the person legally enter your home to get your pet out of there and take them somewhere safe?
  • Do they have the legal power to get medical information from the pets veterinarian? –
  • What if the pet is already at a boarding facility when their owner is hospitalized or passes away? Who will be allowed to remove the pet?
  • What financial means are available to fulfill these responsibilities?
  • What safeguards are in place to ensure that the pet is properly cared for?

When No One is Designated. Animal Control will take custody of neglected animals. Once Animal Control does so, the pet will be placed in a shelter. We have all heard the statistics about the number of animals euthanized daily at animal shelters. Your pet may also be put up for adoption and taken by a stranger.

Good News: Legal Protections Available. Fortunately, you can set out a plan for what you want for your pet. You can decide in your estate plan who your pet would live with. You can also decide what would happen if the person your pet was living with could not take care of your pet anymore, whether the reason for that is because they cannot physically care for the pet or they no longer have the financial means to do so. You can set aside financial resources to care for your pet and put rules and safeguards in place to make sure that happens.

The Golden Years are Sometimes Lonely Years. Having a dog or cat to keep an aging person company is often such a wonderful thing.  Many seniors are hesitant to get a dog when they’re older because they worry about what would happen to the dog or cat if something happened to them. This is certainly a consideration but when there are legal tools available, a senior’s fears may have solutions that enable the pet to be loved and cared for if their owner dies or is too sick to care for them any longer. Until that point, however, a dog or cat will bring a lot of joy to their owner’s heart.

Conclusion. There are a number of considerations to be made by pet owners. Having a plan in place is key.