Like other pet owners in California, your dog or cat is family to you. Whether you are older and expect your pet to outlive you or you worry that an unforeseen accident can leave your pet without a caregiver, you naturally want to make sure his or her needs are addressed. You are simply not satisfied with assuming that one of your relatives will assume the responsibility of caring for your pet after your death or incapacitation.
This is not an unreasonable concern. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many pet owners pass away or move to assisted living facilities without addressing the possibility of their pets becoming ownerless. In many cases, pets are sent to shelters where their futures are uncertain. This can be devastating to dogs, cats and other pets that have a strong emotional bond with people and suddenly lack the love and attention of an owner. It can also be hazardous to a pet's health if it has veterinary needs and is left without a caregiver who knows about these issues.
You might put your mind at ease by creating a pet trust. Like other trusts, you can fund a pet trust and include specific instructions regarding your dog or cat's feeding schedule, preferred brand of food, veterinary information and necessary medications or therapies. You can also add your wishes on preferred toys, how your pet likes to play and end-of-life decisions for your furry family member. It is a good idea to include two or three possible caregivers in your trust, in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to take in your pet.
Because trusts can be complex and highly personalized, this information should not replace the advice of a lawyer.