Canadian estate lawyer Barry Seltzer has co-authored the book “Fat cats and lucky dogs – how to leave some of your estate to your pet.” He says there are at least five key occasions when your pet is in danger:
• When you are incapacitated and are unable to care for your pet.
• Immediately after you die and your pets are home alone, perhaps for days.
• During the time between your death and when the will is read.
• During the time between when your will is read and when it is probated.
• The ongoing period after your will is probated.
Because under Canadian law, pets are property you can’t actually leave money to Fido. Therefore Seltzer suggests concerned pet owners to do the following:
- Identify caregivers and several alternates in a will.
- Figure out how much it will cost to care for the pets.
- Leave a sum of money to the designated caregiver who accepts the responsibility after your death; or,
- Instruct the estate trustee to dole out the money yearly based on evidence the pet still survives and the requested cost reimbursement is reasonable.
Another option is to contract with someone to provide future pet care if you become disabled or die. However it is unclear whether the contract would be enforceable or who would enforce it. Although there are few Canadian precedents for this type of agreement, Setzer says American lawyer Rachel Hirschfeld has developed a generic pet protection agreement that might work in this country. It can be customized and then purchased from her website.
Pet owners often assume that if something happens to them their pets will be taken care of by somebody else. But the unfortunate reality is that because frequently no one steps up to the plate, they are sent to a local animal shelter and euthanised.
Even if you are not rich or famous, by planning ahead you can increase the odds that your pets will be properly care for, even after you have purchased the final bag of kibble or cleaned the cat litter for the last time.
Related: Why I’m rethinking my pet insurance