While a pet trust may not be completely full
proof, pet trusts can be a good option. An excellent resource is
For people who have no one that can serve as a potential caregiver; animal sanctuaries can be good options but may not be able to provide the level of care your pet is accustomed to. We recommend that you inspect the program or facility to make sure it could be an environment where your pet will receive adequate love and care. The following is a listing of facilities by US Region:
Similar to sanctuaries, these programs offer an alternative solution for pet owners who have no caregivers that will be able to care for pets should the pets outlive their owners.
We strongly recommend that you physically inspect a program or facility to make sure it could be an environment where your pet will receive adequate love and care.
When a client asked Peggy Hoyt*, an attorney in Oviedo, Florida, how she could ensure that her five dogs and ten cats would be able to live in her house for the remainder of their lives even if they outlived her, Peggy had the solution - an Animal Care Panel. A legal option for pet owners, an Animal Care Panel can be established to guarantee that pets will remain together in their own home should they outlive their owner.
An Animal Care Panel includes a group of people who are selected by the pet owner and are responsible for ensuring that the instructions of the owner are followed throughout the lives of the surviving pets. Typically, a Panel would include the pet owner's veterinarian, close friends, and estate planner or attorney. As a professional estate planner, Peggy worked with her 50-year-old client, who was single, owned her own home, and had no children, to create the necessary legal document that detailed instructions for the pets' potential future caregiver. By setting up an Animal Care Panel, Peggy's client was able to ensure that her pets will remain at home for as long as they live.
2nd Chance 4 Pets frequently receives requests from responsible pet owners who want to establish a solid care plan for their pets should the pet owner die or become too ill to care for them. For many pet owners, an Animal Care Panel can be a viable solution. Although panels will vary in their details depending on the individual needs of the pet owner and her or his pets, they should all incorporate the following components to guarantee the successful long-term implementation of the care plan.
1. Live-in caregiver: The Animal Care Panel is responsible for selecting the pets' caregiver. Suggestions for identifying this person could come from friends, other pet owners, veterinarians, pet sitters, and connections with the local animal welfare community. The Panel is responsible for interviewing and selecting caregiver candidates. The Panel is also responsible for replacing that person if his or her services are not adequately suited to the pets' needs. The roles and responsibilities of the Animal Care Panel should be outlined in a legally binding document. This document should require periodic reporting by the caregiver to the Panel and give Panel members authorization to inspect the home, check on the health of the pets, and consult in emergency situations, such as extraordinary care or euthanasia decisions.
2. Long-term funding: The pet owner must leave adequate resources to cover pet and home expenses, including mortgage payments. The plan should sensibly delineate the current and estimated future expenses and whether the estate or the caregiver will be responsible for them. The pet owner should also decide whether or not monetary compensation will be provided for the caregiver.
3. Trust and trustee: It is logical to designate someone other than the caregiver as the individual responsible for the pet owner's assets (the trustee), such as a family member, friend, or attorney. Separating these functions avoids potential conflicts of interest. If the pet owner does not have independent resources, purchasing a life insurance policy and naming the trust as the primary beneficiary can be the most efficient means of creating the wealth necessary to cover the trustee's costs. The pet owner may also want to consider designating a "trust protector" - an independent third party (typically an attorney) who has the authority to amend the trust and the beneficiaries once the pet owner has passed away.
4. Estate plan review: It is essential that the pet owner reviews the estate plan at least once a year to ensure that the information is up-to-date and continues to serve the best interest of the pets. There can be a myriad of circumstances that may change after the estate plan is initially drafted, including the owner's financial or personal situation, status of pets, beneficiaries' status, and local estate laws. Estate laws vary by state, so the pet owner should select an attorney who is licensed in their state to ensure that their plan is legitimate.
5. Estate planner or attorney: Pet owners should look for an estate planner that is board certified or an attorney that practices primarily in the area of estate planning or elder law and has experience in planning for pets. Choose a pet friendly attorney; ask if the attorney has pets and what they have done to plan for their own pets. Other ways to find appropriate estate planners are through word of mouth referrals, Avvo.com, LinkedIn, and through social media.
* Peggy Hoyt is board certified by the Florida Bar in Elder Law and Wills, Trusts and Estates. Peggy can be reached at The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, LLC. Oviedo, Florida. Phone number 407-977-8080, email address Peggy@HoytBryan.com, website HoytBryan.com.
2nd Chance 4 Pets is not a law firm and does not give legal advice. Nothing contained on our website should be construed as legal advice or the practice of law.