Animal law is a growing area of legal practice. Almost every area of law has an animal law aspect. Animal law can include criminal law, family law, estate planning, property law, entertainment law, disability law, just to name a few. Attorney, Peggy R. Hoyt is an animal advocate and concentrates a portion of her practice in animal law related to estate planning for pets and pet dispute resolution. Peggy is the author of All My Children Wear Fur Coats – How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet and the Pet Lover’s Guide to Mediation. Peggy hosts a weekly radio program that airs on Pet Will Radio at Mixlr.com/PetWill on Mondays at 3 p.m. EST called All My Children Wear Fur Coats. Each week Peggy and her guests discuss issues relevant to pet owners and lovers. You can listen to archived shows by clicking here.
Peggy is passionate about planning for your pet’s future. She says, “One hundred percent (100%) of my clients do something to plan for their pets.” If you are a pet lover, make sure your pet’s future is secure.
Peggy serves on the Executive Council of the Florida Bar Animal Law Committee. Peggy is available to speak at events and to organizations about the importance of planning for your pets. She has been featured on CNN Financial News and in the Wall Street Journal regarding estate plans for pets.
Peggy has three (3) horses, seven (7) dogs and three (3) cats she calls her “kids in fur coats.”
Planning for Your Pet’s Future – What to do if something happens to you.
Although we would like to believe we will always be around to care for our pets, far too often the pet owner is required to move from their home to an alternate or permanent care facility, becomes incapacitated, or dies without addressing the ongoing care of their pets. There are numerous sad stories of pets that were overlooked when their owners became ill, had to be hospitalized, went to a nursing home or passed away. Tragically animals have run away or have been forgotten in the home of their owner. To prevent these unnecessary and tragic occurrences it is imperative to develop a written action plan for your pet in the event of an unexpected event or disaster.
Identify at least two people, “pet caregivers”, who will agree to be responsible for your pet if something happens to you, including incapacity, death or natural disaster. These trusted individuals should have access to your home, care and feeding instructions for your pet, the name and contact information for your veterinarian and written instructions for the long-term or permanent care of your pet including final plans for your pet in the event your pet should die. The individuals you choose can either be short-term, long-term or permanent caregivers depending on the plan you intend to implement for your pet.
Formulate your written action plan to include the following provisions:
Name, age and medical history of each pet. If you maintain a medical history file for your pet, provide instructions where these documents are stored and can be located. Keep this information in a safe but accessible place in your home.
Name, address, phone and other contact information for your veterinarian in the event of an emergency.
Name, address, phone and other contact information for key family members or friends that can be contacted in the event your pet caregiver is unable or unwilling to provide care services for your pet.
Identify the location of your important estate planning and financial documents including Powers of Attorney, Living Trusts, Wills and Health Care directives, outlining the instructions to not only take care of you, but also detailed instructions on the care of your pets.
Identify the person or facility that will provide long-term or perpetual care for your pet if you, your family or your selected caregiver is unable or unwilling to provide this care.
Include provisions in your estate plan including Wills, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Advanced Health Care directives and other planning documents to detail your wishes with regard to the care and disposition of your pets in the event of your disability or death.
Estate Planning Options:
There are a variety of estate planning options for you and your pets. Studies have revealed that somewhere between 12 and 25 percent of pet owners include their pets in their wills. It is important to plan not only for the long term care of your pet but also for the short term care of your pet in the event of your incapacity, hospitalization or during the time between death and the implementation of your Will or your Trust.
The document component of a comprehensive estate plan should include at a minimum the following:
1. Durable Powers of Attorney for financial matters.
2. Durable Power of Attorney for health matters, sometimes referred to as Advanced Health Care directives or Health Care Powers of Attorney.
3. Last Will and Testament (your “Will”).
4. Trusts (either Living Trusts created during lifetime, Testamentary Trusts created by a Will at the time of death, Irrevocable Trusts such as insurance or wealth replacement trusts and Charitable Trusts).
Choosing a pet caregiver will be one of the most important aspects of planning for your pet. Make sure your nominated pet caregiver is on board with the decision. Then, make sure you have one or more additional persons or organizations that can act as a back-up if your first choice is unwilling or unable to provide lifetime care for your pets. Organizations like The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando have worked with Peggy to develop programs for the lifetime care of your pets. The Pet Alliance program is called the Paws-itive Care Program. You can download their application here.
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