Dear Money Lady Readers,
I recently volunteered at the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society Month with a friend who goes regularly. I was very surprised to see all the stray cats and kittens. All the little cages were full of strays. When I spoke with the coordinator, she showed me many cute dogs and cats that had been abandoned by their owners who were unable to care for them. This is a crisis in communities across the country, so I think we need to address this issue.
Many retirees treat their pets like children, family members – but what if your pet outlives you? Planning for our future is something we all know we should do, but we should also consider planning for our pets to make sure they get to your local dog pound. Or not face the uncertain fate of the shelter.
Legally, pets are considered property, so, unless you specify otherwise, upon your death, your pet will become the property of the person to whom the rest of your personal belongings, Like furniture, cars, etc. Does this person want care responsibility for your pet; Are they even suitable? A friend or family member may say they’ll take your pet when you pass, but I’ve often seen these arrangements fail. Sometimes it’s a conflict with other pets, incompatibility with other family members or children, insufficient finances, or maybe they’ve changed their mind when faced with responsibility. Personally, I don’t know what I would do if my mom died and I suddenly had to take in her three dogs.
The only way to make sure your pet goes to someone who is willing and able to care for it is to make a special provision in your will or estate plan. Here are some points you should consider:
• Select one or more responsible persons to care for your pet in your absence during short-term emergencies, or as permanent caregivers.
• Provide your future caregivers with detailed instructions on care, feeding, routines, veterinary and emergency needs. Give them a small notebook with all the specific details if you die or become incapacitated.
Keep caregivers’ instructions or contact information in your wallet. I have some clients who even have the details of their wishes on a pre-printed business “alert card” that they carry with them. Some have also given these cards to family and friends.
• If you have multiple pets, consider how you want them cared for – together or separately?
Make sure you budget for your pet’s future care. This can be gifted to your pet guardian so that they are more willing to adopt your pet without incurring a financial burden.
There are many retired Canadians whose pets are their only companions. Because your pets are so important, you should have a plan in place to protect them. Write down your expectations, change things if necessary, but keep your word and make sure it’s done your way.
Ask the Money Lady.
Christine Ibbotson is an author, finance writer and national radio host, now appearing on CTV Morning Live, and CTV News@6. Send your money questions to her website at askthemoneylady.ca.