Making Plans for the Big One? Don’t Forget Your Pets

Whether they’re planning for emergencies or the end of their lives, most parents’ first thought is how their children will be taken care of if the worst happens. When it comes to writing a will or making other estate plans, mothers and fathers must not only determine what their children will inherit, but who will raise and watch over them if they’re too young to take care of themselves.

But what about people whose children are of the canine or feline variety? As much as pet owners love their furry companions, the vast majority of them don’t have a plan for emergencies, let alone the pet owner’s death. Never is this more apparent than after a catastrophic storm like Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. After both of those natural disasters, we heard countless heartbreaking stories about abandoned animals that either perished or were never reunited with their owners.

To avoid a similar scenario with your own pets, it pays to have a contingency plan in place, both for emergencies like a storm and in case of your untimely death. Just as you would demand some say in who raises your children after you die, you’ll undoubtedly want control over who takes care of Chance and Lucky if you suddenly can’t.

The first and easiest step is to put your pet’s vital information on a card that you carry in a purse or wallet. It should contain your pet’s name, animal type, location, any special care instructions and a contact who can access your pet in an emergency. This gives first responders something to go on in an emergency. You should keep the same information with any estate planning materials.

If your pet isn’t already in your will, consider adding him. Pets are considered property under the law, so not all estate planners may remember to ask about what should happen to your cat or dog, but including at least a guardian choice for your pet is better than nothing. You might also consider a pet trust fund, which will provide money for someone else to care for your pet. Silly as they may sound to some people, these steps will ensure your pets are protected if you can’t be there for them.

Source:, “Superstorm showed need for estate planning for pets,” Jacoba Urist, Nov. 12, 2012