Protecting your pet after you die
May 17, 2019
While we wish you a long and healthy life, nothing is guaranteed. And, while you probably have a plan in place for your untimely departure we’re wondering, who will look after your pets if you go before they do? Who will feed and care for them once you’re gone? We’ve unpacked the uncomfortable but essential topic of providing for your pet in the unfortunate event that you pass away prematurely.
First of all, your pet needs a new alpha human after you’re gone. Choose a guardian who has a good relationship with your pet and get their consent to the process, ideally in writing, with a licenced lawyer to oversee. Make sure they understand the terms and conditions. The best person for your pet is not necessarily the closest person to you. Discuss the care and considerable responsibility of having a pet with them to make sure they understand what’s required and desired.
It’s wise to have a few backup guardians queued, all who have given their consent. Other backup options include making a donation to and arrangement with an animal shelter that will try to find a new human family for your pet in the event of your death. Make sure the shelter is well managed and has a high adoption rate, that animals receive good medical care and healthy food, and are given exercise and attention.
Put it all in your will. Properly. Pets may be family to you, but they are considered property by the law, and treated as such. If they’re cited in your will, less confusion and complication can arise.
Develop the bond between the guardian(s) and the pet while you’re still alive. Have them visit together, play together, and get to know each other. This makes for a smoother – though no less sad – transition from your care to theirs if the time comes.
Calculate the living costs based on your vet’s projection of the animal’s projected lifespan with the current care. Include all expenses directly related to your pet, indirectly related expenses (e.g. car wash for dirty doggy car interior), make allowances for inflation, and economic instability (which affects cost of living for pets as well as people). You’ll want the amount to cover any shortfalls, like a period of unforeseen illness that results in unexpected medical expenses, or increased medical care and more expensive dietary requirements as your pet ages or deals with illness.
Start a pet trust that will channel the funds for your pet to their guardian. It’s smart to create a dedicated and protected investment to look after your pet when you’re gone.
Checklist for your pet’s trust
- Make sure you’re happy with the financial services provider you use to create and manage the money you set aside for your pet. A reliable financial services provider will be licenced and audited.
- Is this trust open to exploitation? Make sure not to make the amount too extravagant, as this can encourage misuse, abuse or fraud.
- Is there a mandatory paper trail for monies spent and that the guardian is required to routinely prove that they’re spending the money on your pet’s health, wellness and happiness.
- What provisions do they make for your pet’s policy if their business collapses suddenly and your pet is still a beneficiary?
- Speak to someone who is receiving money from them for pet care they opted into and get a sense of how well they manage the process for the guardian (and, ultimately, your pet). You can ask the company for referees, and also ask trusted people in your community for their experiences.
- Check out respected consumer complaint sites like Hello Peter. A good financial services provider should have a great rating.
What if your pet then dies?
This is another reason a legitimate trust is important. If your pet passes after you do, and there’s money left over in the trust, you may want it given to a family member, friend, or you may wish to continue the legacy of love by donating it to animal welfare or an animal shelter or even charities researching deadly diseases in pets. It’s worth doing your homework in case this happens soon after you pass as the trust will still have a substantial amount of money.
Finally, help your pet say goodbye.
We don’t know if animals understand death the way we do, but if you suddenly disappear, and they are stranded as the legal proceedings are put in place, they could suffer even more than the loss of your love. They could feel abandoned and confused. We suggest you consider a tender way to help them understand you’re gone and say goodbye in their own way. This might mean leaving an article of clothing with your scent on it, or letting them attend your funeral. We know you’ll love them forever and we hope your pet’s guardian will do as good a job as you do now. Just remember you can use your pet trust to continue to cover them with www.dotsure.co.za
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