Pet Care 101: What Happens to Your Pets After You Die?

Planning what happens to your pet after you die probably isn’t high on your list of priorities, but it should be. Find out more, here…

An unfortunate reality of our lives is that they can come to an end unexpectedly. As morbid as this topic might be, it’s important that you have a pet care plan ready in case anything happens to you.

There are several ways to do this, from agreeing with someone that they’ll look after them, to going through the official channels of wills trusts and probate to legally bind your pet’s fate.

In this post, we’re going to briefly touch on why it’s important to make pet care plans in case of your untimely demise. Then, we’ll be giving you some advice on what plans you can actually make. So, to protect your pets from heading into the adoption system, read on…

Why is it Important to Make a Pet Care Plan?

Before we tell you how to make a pet care plan, we’re going to try and convince you that it’s a good idea, through a survey conducted by Cats Protection. In this survey, 91 percent of cat owners in the UK considered their cat to be a member of the family. However, only 23 percent of them had made plans for their cat upon their death.

According to the exact same survey, there was a motive behind this. In fact, 40 percent of these cat owners assumed their friends or relatives would look after their cat.

This is an issue across the entire pet spectrum, with owners assuming their relatives will take care of their pets. The fact of the matter is, without putting a pet care plan in place, there are no assurances that your pet will be looked after.

In the UK, and across much of the known world, pets are legally considered the property of the owner, not a family member who needs to be taken care of. If death finds you before making plans, they could end up in a home and be put down if it becomes overcrowded.

To avoid this devastating outcome, you should plan ahead and make sure your pet can continue its current quality of life once you’re gone. To find out how to do that, read on to the next section.

Best Way to Ensure Your Pet is Cared for After Your Death

Now that we have an idea of why it’s important to have a pet care plan in place, it’s time to give you an idea of the types of plans you can make for them.

1. Ask friends and family to take care of your pet

This is something you should do, whether you decide to set up a legal will or trust for your pet or not. If you do choose to set up a trust to ensure pet care for your animal, you’ll still need someone to look after them in the interim, so make sure you have someone ready.

Identify at least one friend, and maybe a backup friend just in case, who could take care of your pet if you die. They can either look after your pet until you find a permanent home or can be the people you want to care for them long term.

Choose people who are fully prepared for the responsibility of pet care, preferably someone who has an animal or has had one before. Leave these people with detailed pet care instructions to give them an idea of what your pets needs are.

You should also give them the name of your vet, and some sort of cash pool they can use to pay for vet bills. Also, provide them with anything else the pet might need so they don’t become a financial burden.

2. Put your pet in your will

You can end your pet care preparations here if you trust the people you’ve allocated to fulfil their promise. That said, if you’d rather bind them to their promise legally you can include it in the will.

Although you may not allocate a direct amount to your pet, but you can leave an estate to a trustee who will be looking after them. In this manner they can use it to pay the price of looking after them.

You can have a solicitor write this clause for you stating that the money is only at disposal to the beneficiary to pay for pet care until the animal’s natural life comes to an end.

If you’re going to take this route, it’s advisable that you don’t name your animal in your will, but instead refer to them as the ‘dog/s’ or ‘cat/s’. This means you don’t have to change your will if you adopt more pets or other pets if your current pet dies.

The final thing you can do is join a ‘letter of wishes’ for your will with instructions on how you want your pet to be cared for. You don’t need a solicitor for this, but it should be kept alongside a copy of your will so it can make its way to the people who are going to care for your pet.

3. Organise pet care with a charity

If you don’t have any family or friends who are willing to adopt your pet, your last option is to enlist the help of an animal charity. Many of these charities have pre-need registration approaches you’ll be able to sign up to that provide pet care for your creature upon your passing.

Most of these agreements have clauses that are pre-written and you can do the same in your will. There is also an option of legally donating an estate to help them afford to look after your pet. To give you an idea of some of the charities that provide this type of pet care in the UK, here’s a quick list:

  • The RSPCA’s Home for Life scheme grants them the mandate to handle the creature in any way they see fit, typically taking responsibility to your pet once it is in their care and trying their best to find it a new home.
  • The Dogs Trust Canine Care Card is specifically for dog owners and allows them to rehome your dog when you die. If they can’t find a new owner, Dogs Trust will not put your dog down, vowing to look after it to the end of its life.
  • The Cats Protection League Cat Guardians Cardthey are at liberty to take the cat to a rehoming centre or another owner with the guarantee that they will never put it to sleep.
  • The Cinnamon Trust helps Old and weak ill individuals with proper pet care.The trust has a volunteer-led fostering service for pets whose owners have been taken to hospital or put into care. If you happen to die, the trust will look after your pet for life if you arrange it with them beforehand.
  • The Blue Cross Pets into Care Schemeis perfect for those of you who don’t have a cat, dog or are elderly/terminally ill. The Blue Cross will rehome up to four animals per household and they can be any shape, size or species. You have to apply for each pet individually and they are accepted on a case by case basis.

Will my Pet Be Looked After?

Today, we’ve managed to cover why it’s important to have a pet care plan in case of your untimely death, and three ways you can ensure that happens. To make sure your pet is definitely looked after, it’s a good idea to draft a will so that the people you’ve chosen to look after your pet have the legal right to do so. It’s also important to leave them a trust so the pet doesn’t become a financial burden on them.

If you don’t have friends or family who want to look after your pet, one of the various charities in the UK, and across the world, should be able to look after and rehome them for you, with no risk of them being put down.

As long as you follow these steps, there’s no reason your animal shouldn’t be looked after in the event of your death. Plan ahead, make it lawful, and your pet is going to be looked after for the rest of their natural life.

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