What Would Happen to your Pets if you Died?

What Would Happen to Your Pets If You Died?

by Sarah Kessler

Unfortunately, one of the reasons pets end up in shelters is because of owners who pass away without plans in place for their pets. If you’re like most pet owners, you probably don’t like to think about what might happen to your pets if you were no longer there to care for them and love them. 

However, putting plans in place is one of the most responsible and selfless steps you can take as a pet parent. Here are some steps to ensure your pets are taken care of after you’re gone.

  • Choose an emergency pet care provider.

A good first step is to choose the person who will take care of your pets in the short term if needed. This person should live nearby and have a relatively open schedule in case of emergencies. They’ll need to step in to feed and supervise your pets, but they might not be the person or people who permanently adopt your pets. 

  • Ask friends and family to join you. 

Any difficult task is easier when you tackle it as a team. Consider getting close friends and family members involved in creating pet care plans with you. That way, you can discuss with each other what you’re willing and able to take on as each other’s emergency or permanent pet caregivers. 

  • Create an emergency notice.

Once you’ve chosen an emergency caregiver for your pet, make sure you write down their name and phone number and place the notice somewhere prominent, like on your refrigerator. You can also include the name of your vet, as well as any urgent information about your pets, such as medication schedules and allergies.

  • Consider permanent homes for your pets.

With your emergency plan in place, now it’s time to consider where you would like your pets to live permanently if you pass away. This could be the same person as your emergency caregiver, or it could be someone who lives too far away to step in during emergencies. 

When you’re considering permanent homes for your pets, think about how the person has interacted with your pet in the past. It’s also important to think about whether their views on pet care and topics like euthanasia align with your own. Take the time to ask them questions if you have any about how they would care for your pets.

  • Discuss your plans with anyone involved in them. 

Make sure that you’re not including someone in your pet care plans without their knowledge or permission. Reach out to anyone you want to list as an emergency caregiver to ask whether or not they’re comfortable with that responsibility. 

It’s also essential to sit down with your planned permanent caregiver to see if they’re willing and able to act as your pets’ “godparents.” 

  • Write down rehoming instructions.

It’s not always possible to identify a permanent home for your pets if you pass away. If there’s no one in your life who you feel comfortable asking to permanently adopt your pets if you pass away, you can create rehoming instructions instead. 

You’ll list the qualities that are important to you in a potential home for your pets, and your emergency caregiver or the executor of your will can search for the right living arrangements.

  • Include your pets in your will.

End-of-life plans, including plans for your pets, are only useful if your family can find them and follow them. The best way to ensure that that happens is by recording your wishes in your will. 

Of course, your emergency caregiver will need to step in before your will can be read. But you should include your long-term wishes for your pets, such as a permanent home or rehoming instructions, in your will. This also includes instructions regarding any money you designate for your pets. 

  • Set some funds aside for your pets.

Taking on a pet isn’t only an emotional task; it’s also an additional financial responsibility. If you want to ensure your pet is taken care of to the standard they’re used to under your care, it’s a good idea to set aside some funds for their food, toys, and veterinary care. You can do this by simply storing cash in an envelope, or you can officially designate funds using your will or a trust.

  • Keep your plans up to date.

Creating end-of-life plans is not a one-and-done process, including plans for pets. Once you have your plans written down, we recommend checking them at least once a year to make sure they’re still accurate. Check in with your emergency and permanent caregivers to ensure they’re still on board and update any information about your pets as needed.

The Best for Your Pet Now and Forever

If you’re like most pet parents, you probably don’t enjoy the thought of leaving your pets behind. But we can’t predict what the future holds. One of the most responsible and selfless steps you can take as a pet owner is to make detailed plans for their care when you’re gone, just in case.

Sarah Kessler is a writer at JoinCake.com, an end-of-life planning website with free resources and information on how to estate plan and honor loved ones’ final wishes.

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