Our dogs and cats are family. It’s difficult to think about when they’ll no longer be with us. But what if something happens to you first? Death or serious illness are often reasons why a dog or cat ends up in a shelter.

Most people have a financial plan and probably have designated someone to make decisions for them if they are unable to do so. Considering the future of your pets is an important process to add to your “what if” planning.

If you become seriously ill or pass away, your animals will need immediate care. The two main decisions are: who will care for your pets, and will you designate financial resources for this care?

In choosing a caregiver, decide if your pets should go to one or more persons. Try to keep pets together who have bonded with one another and designate backup caregivers as well in case something happens to one of your initial choices.  Make sure the caregivers you select fully understand and agree to the responsibilities involved.  Be sure to choose someone you know will be able to provide your pets with a good home, and who can give your pets the kind of attention and care they’re used to.

The caregivers should be identified in your will with an additional backup plan directing that the identified executor or trustee can place your pets with another responsible person. The will should also grant discretion to your executor for decisions about the pets and in expending estate funds on the animal’s behalf.

It is possible to use the proceeds from a life insurance policy to pay for pets who survive you. While preparing your estate planning trust, you can include authorization for the use of funds from your estate for your pets.

If you become incapacitated by illness or need to move to a care facility, you should have a second plan for pet care. It’s not enough to have a verbal agreement with a friend. Work with an attorney to draw up a special trust, or other document to provide for the care and ownership of your pet if you can no longer do so yourself.

When establishing a will or a trust, keep in mind that you need to provide a reasonable amount of money for both the trustee and the pet caretakers and that the annual cost for care varies with the health and age of the individual animal. Consider costs for food, grooming, vet care, etc.

We encourage all pet parents to discuss these issues with estate and other planning professionals, such as their attorneys, accountants, or life insurance representatives as well as with family members and friends.

Chevy Rose is a young, active, healthy mixed breed girl who came to us a while back as an owner surrender. She’s smart and sensitive and would do best in a home that can continue to teach her how to be her best self.

Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Shops have served San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties since 1994. Adoption hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 pm. View our shelter pets and services online: www.secondchancehumane.org