If you need to make arrangements for the care of your pets as part of your estate plan, one option is a pet retirement home. A pet retirement home provides lifetime care to domestic animals that have outlived their human caretakers. A pet retirement home may also provide long-term care to dogs or cats when their owner is incapacitated for an extended period of time.
Animals placed in a pet retirement home are not adopted out but remain at the home for the duration of their lives. The policies of pet retirement homes vary by organization. If you do not have a reliable pet guardian to name in your will or
pet trust, a pet retirement home may be a good alternative.
Advantages of Pet Retirement Homes
For pet owners making an estate plan, the primary advantage of a pet retirement home is it provides the security of knowing your pet will be cared for if you die or become disabled. If you donít have anyone you can rely on to care for your animals, a pet retirement home is a better option than an animal shelter. Pet retirement homes are equipped to care for senior pets and animals in poor health. A pet retirement home is a better alternative than an animal shelter where your pet is likely to be euthanized if not adopted within a few days.
While you may assume your pet will be adopted, in fact, a large majority of dogs and cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized almost immediately after being brought to the shelter. Even puppies and kittens are euthanized in shelters if they come in at a time when the shelter is full or there are too many others up for adoption. If you make arrangements with a pet retirement home as part of your estate plan, your pet will have a secure home for the rest of his or her life.If you make arrangements with a pet retirement home, make sure their information can be located by your next of kin or executor in the event something happens to you. You can put this information in a Letter of Instruction Form. It is a good idea to have the phone number of your pet guardian written down with instructions in a location that would be easily noticed to avoid your pets being taken to an animal shelter.
How to Find a Pet Retirement Home as Part of Your Estate Plan
While the number of pet retirement homes is expected to grow in the future, there are currently a limited number of pet retirement homes in the U.S. To find a pet retirement home, start with an online search. Nonprofit animal charities such as the Humane Society are usually good resources. Contact your veterinarian or representatives of your local animal shelter for information about pet retirement homes in your area.Some pet retirement homes only accept cats or dogs. If you have a bird, horse, rabbit, reptile, pig or other type of animal as a pet, you will probably need to use other estate planning methods. There are charitable organizations that specialize in providing homes for many different types of animals. For a list of nonprofit organizations that provide homes for unwanted cats and dogs, visit our Animal Charities page. While it will take some effort on your part to make arrangements for your pets in your estate plan, it is worth it to know they will not be euthanized or homeless after your death. As someone who has been active in animal rescue for years, I can tell you that many of the dogs I fostered were left at the shelter after their owners died. To see what could happen to your pets if you fail to include them in your estate plan, watch the video on our Unwanted Pets page.
Disadvantages of Pet Retirement Homes
When you make an estate plan, you are making decisions about how your pet will spend the remainder of his or her life without you. An animal that is confined to a pet retirement home is unlikely to experience the type of bonding and family interaction a pet would enjoy if adopted into a new home. Depending on the number of caregivers at the pet retirement home, your pet may not receive the individual attention, walks or time outdoors he or she would receive in a private home. Some pet retirement homes keep animals in cages, which may not provide a good quality of life for your pet.
If you have the option of having your pet cared for by a close friend or relative you trust, leaving your animal in the care of a pet retirement home may be a less desirable option than a
pet guardian. The fees charged by a pet retirement home may be slightly more expensive than reaching a written agreement with a family member or friend to care for your pet. There is no guarantee the pet retirement home will remain in business throughout your petís life. If your pet does not get along with other animals or has significant behavioral issues, a pet retirement home may not be an option. An estate planning lawyer may be able to suggest other options you can consider.
How Much Do Pet Retirement Homes Cost?
When your estate planning documents are drafted, you will need to have an idea of how much you need to set aside for the care of your pets. The price charged by a pet retirement home is based on several factors. The type of animal, age, weight, health condition, and grooming requirements are all considerations in the price of lifetime care for your pet. In addition, the location of the pet retirement home will affect the cost.
Contact several pet retirement homes about the fees and explain that you need the information for your estate plan. Then you can determine whether you need to purchase life insurance or make other financial arrangements to pay the cost of care for your pet. For more information on providing for your pets as part of your estate plan, refer to Pennyborn.com's free pet owners estate plan guide.
Estate Planning Alternatives to Pet Retirement Homes
If you can find a person who will agree to care for your pets in the event of your incapacity or death, you can appoint that person as their caregiver or guardian in a pet trust. If you want your pets to have a chance to be adopted by a new family, include enforceable provisions in your estate planning documents to leave your pets to a sanctuary that has agreed to take them. When arranging continuing care for animals as part of your estate plan, the most important steps are to make arrangements with a pet guardian in advance and to fund the expenses of caring for your pet through a pet trust, life insurance, a bank account, or another method suggested by an estate planning attorney.