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Planning for your cat's care.
After a human's death, many companion animals find themselves abandoned or forgotten. They are given to friends or relatives who may not want to care for them, or more often surrendered to an animal shelter. A recent study of independently living elderly people showed that most of the participants assumed a family member or friend would take care of their pet after the owner's death. Caring for and meeting the needs of a companion animal requires a great deal of individual attention. Every person who owns a pet should be concerned about what will happen to them when we die. As unpleasant as it may seem, this is a problem that must be addressed in one's lifetime.
Cats have grown in popularity to the point that they are now the number one companion animal in America. As with that of human beings, the average life span of cats and dogs has increased to the point where you could be looking at making provisions for a pet of 10 or more years.
For a person who becomes ill or injured, most people also do not have someone designated to step in immediately and care for a pet. If the pet owner is elderly or in poor health, the possibility exists that if guardianship became necessary, someone else could end up making decisions about your pet cat.
What things should a cat owner really plan for? Most importantly, someone to take care of your cat/cats in an emergency. Long-term assistance or placement for your cat if you should become indefinitely or permanently incapacitated. Finally, the care of your cat in the event of your own death needs to be addressed.
A growing area of law today in estate planning is the care of one's pet upon the owner's death or incapacity. People are always concerned with passing on wealth to children or other relatives with as little consequences as possible, but what about taking care of a pet!
If you die and your pet survives you, the issue is not going to be just leaving enough money for the pet to be cared for over the long run. Who is going to take care of your pet today and tomorrow?
Courts are reluctant to destroy pets by order of their deceased owners. In contrast to the lovely story of "RHUBARB", who inherited a baseball team, just leaving money to a cat or dog only invites challenges to a will in many states. The courts may convert the bequest to a trust, or invalidate the entire will.
Most state courts refuse to let pet owners establish trusts for the benefit of their own animals, but permit the creation of trusts that benefit the animal population as a whole. There are a few states in which a trust for one's pet may be valid, as long as the amount of money is proportionate to the care needed for the pet after the owner's death.
Without someone to look after a pet's welfare, no amount of money will assure proper care after an owner's death. You can leave your cat to someone, but a cat is considered personal property. It could be treated as if it were a piece of jewelry or an article of clothing. The person could accept your cat, then sell, destroy or just ignore it. That person could also refuse to accept the cat.
While you are still healthy and well, line up a friend or relative whose personality and circumstances are compatible with your cat. Make certain that person is willing to make a commitment to take care of the cat for the rest of its natural life. If such a person does not readily come to mind, make a special effort to find and develop a relationship with such a person.
Animals need human companionship. Pets do not do well over the long-term in isolation or institutionalized settings such as kennels or animal shelters.
Don't just leave your cat/pet to someone without talking to them and feeling comfortable about your decision. You need to make certain that the person is aware of what is involved and is willing to accept the cat.
One of the most common efforts made by owners seeking to protect their cat or dog, is to leave money to a named individual on the condition that they care for the pet. The person can also be left the money and the pet, with your request that the pet be cared for using the money. These types of requests make the most common sense.