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Estate Planning Even Includes Your Pets

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Dear Pet Parents, 

All the pets I know have a special relationship with their human(s), like I am fortunate to have with John and Jo-Ann McDonald. We are best friends. You, our humans, are extraordinarily compassionate and caring to us, your beloved pet. Often, there are no lengths to which you will not go to ensure we are safe, content, and well-fed. 

But what happens when you die? Or, you become incapacitated due to an illness or injury and are no longer able to care for us personally? While these are questions no one likes to think about, answering them is essential for your pet(s), for you, and for the loved ones who would need to care for your pet on your behalf.

Essential Estate Planning Tools for Protecting Your Pets

When it comes to providing for your pet in your estate plans, there are two separate issues to consider. The first is your pet’s care in the event of your incapacity. The second is your pet’s ownership and care in the event of your death. 

Pet Power of Attorney

A power of attorney for pet care allows you to appoint someone to care for your pet should you become unable to do so during life. There are various ways that a person can become incapacitated at all stages of life. For example, being involved in a severe car accident, suffering a traumatic injury on the job, and suddenly falling ill are all risks worth considering when it comes to making sure your pet’s needs will always be met.

A power of attorney for pet care is (or can be) temporary. If you recover from your injury or illness and regain capacity, then you will be able to resume providing care for your pet. However, while you are unable to provide care, the person you name in your power of attorney will have the legal authority to ensure your pet continues to live a comfortable and fulfilling life.

Setting up a Pet Power of Attorney is simple. Just like a Power of Attorney for your financial protection, a Pet Power of Attorney allows you (known as the grantor or principal) to choose a person (known as the agent) you trust to act on your behalf to make decisions for the care of your pet. The person you appoint is required to follow the directives and instructions you list in the document and, based on the limitations you set, can make financial decisions such as authorizing medical treatment for your pet on your behalf.

Pet Trust

While it is possible to bequeath your pet to a loved one in your will, this approach is generally inadvisable for a variety of different reasons. Instead, it is recommended to create a pet trust.

Creating a pet trust allows you to choose who will care for your pet after death. It also helps you to establish guidelines for your pet’s care, such as access to specific foods, activities, and other things he or she enjoyed during your lifetime. With a pet trust, you can set aside funds specifically for meeting your pet’s needs, and you can give a gift to your chosen caretaker so that he or she can purchase the provisions necessary to move your pet into his or her home comfortably.

Creating a pet power of attorney and/or a pet trust might feel like a tedious task, but it is worth it. Having the peace of mind that comes with knowing your beloved best friend is taken care of is priceless. Please have a discussion with your attorney about which option works best for you and your best friend. 

As you consider the other elements of your estate plan, my friends at the IEEE Foundation welcome the opportunity to start a conversation about the role IEEE has played in your life and help you unlock your IEEE legacy.

For more information and to talk to someone from the IEEE Foundation, please fill out our Planned Giving Interest Form.

Bruno McDonald
IEEE Foundation
Chief Canine

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal, tax, or investment advice. We recommend you consult with your own legal and financial advisors to determine the best options for you. The information in this article is adapted from information provided by the ASPCA and is for educational purposes only. Also, consult with your human for extra scratches. 

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