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ASK THE MONEY LADY: How can I financially protect my pets if I die?

There are steps you can take to protect your beloved pet's future should you pass away or become incapacitated.
There are steps you can take to protect your beloved pet's future should you pass away or become incapacitated.

Dear Money Lady,

I’m in my eighties and am getting a bit nervous thinking about what is going to happen to my dog if I died. Any ideas?

Candice


Dear Candice,

Great question! There are many retirees that treat their pets like one of their children, a member of the family – but what happens if your pet outlives you? Planning for our future is something we all know to do, but we should also consider proper planning for our pets to ensure they do not face any uncertain fate, should we leave them.

Legally, pets are considered property, therefore unless you state otherwise, upon your death, your pet will become the property of whomever receives the rest of your personal items; such as furniture, cars, etc. Does this person want the responsibility of caring for your pets and are they suitable? Often, a friend or family member may say that they will take your pet when you pass, but I have seen all too often how these arrangements can fail. Sometimes it can be a conflict with other pets, incompatibility with other family members or children, inadequate finances, or maybe they have just changed their mind now that they are faced with this responsibility.

The only way to really ensure that your pet is given to someone willing and able to care for it is to make a special provision in your will or estate plan.

Here are some tips that you should consider when making your own personal plan for your beloved pet(s).

1. Select one or more responsible persons to take care of your pet for absence during short-term emergency situations, or as a permanent caregiver.

2. Provide your future caregivers with detailed instructions on care, food, routines, vet and emergency needs. Give them a small notebook with all the specific details that are important to you and your pet should you die or become incapacitated.

3. Carry the caregiver instructions or contact information in your wallet. I have some clients that even have the details of their wishes put on a pre-printed business card or “alert card” and carry it with them. Some have also given these cards to all their family and friends.

4. If you have multiple pets, consider how you want them to be cared for – together or apart?

5. Ensure you have set aside funds for the future care of your pets. This can be gifted to your future pet guardian and provides safeguards so that they are more willing to adopt your pets wholeheartedly without suffering a financial burden.

There are so many Canadians now in retirement alone with only their pets day-to-day as companions. We need to take care of ourselves and always be planning. Write down your expectations, change things if you have to, but have your say and make sure it is done your way!

Good luck and best wishes,

Money Lady

Written by Christine Ibbotson, Author of the best-selling book, How to Retire Debt Free & Wealthy, and a new book Don’t Panic – How to Manage your Finances and Financial Anxieties During and After the Coronavirus, available at all bookstores across Canada. If you have a money question, please email on website

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