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 Planning for Your Disability – Don’t forget your Pets!

29 March 2016 Magazine

Planning for Your Disability – Don’t forget your Pets!
By Peggy Hoyt, Host of All My Children Wear Fur Coats

Most people are aware they need a will.  What many don’t realize is that you are likely to become disabled before you die.  Disability can be either mental or physical.  In either event, if you are unable to care for yourself, it is likely you will not be able to care for your pet.  That’s why planning for your disability and making sure your pets are provided for is so important.

Here’s a checklist of legal documents you’ll want to be sure you have:

  1. Financial Durable Power of Attorney.  This legal directive will appoint an agent (and successor) to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.  This durable power of attorney should include provisions allowing your agent to also make decisions in the best interests of your pets.
  2. Health Care Power of Attorney (also called a Heath Care Surrogate).  This instrument appoints a surrogate (and successor) to make every day health care related decisions when you are unable to make your own.  Likely, you won’t include provisions for your pets here, like in your financial durable power of attorney.
  3. Living Will.  This is your end of life declaration regarding how you want to be cared for in the event of a life-threatening illness including a termination condition, end stage condition or persistent vegetative state.  It sets forth your desires regarding life-prolonging procedures such as respiration, hydration and nutrition.  A Living Will should not be confused with a Do Not Resuscitate Order that must be discussed with and signed by your doctor.
  4. Pre-Need Guardian Declaration.  The purpose of this legal directive is to advise the guardianship court regarding your preference in the appointment of a guardian of the person or guardian of the property in the event you ever find yourself in the guardianship court.  Generally, you should choose the same individuals (and successors) you chose for your financial durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney.  In the absence of this directive, the court will look to state law for guidance regarding those individuals with statutory preference.  If you are in an unmarried relationship, your partner will not have any preference for appointment.
  5. Memorial Instructions.  This is an instrument designed to advise family and friends regarding your final disposition including cremation, burial or other disposition.  In addition, you can include information regarding your memorial, obituary and any other wishes that are important to you.
  6. Last Will and/or Living Trust.  If you have a Living Trust, it can provide instructions regarding your care (and the care of your pets) in the event of a disability.  Both a Last Will and Living Trust will contain your instructions for the disposition of your property after your death.  A Pet Trust may be appropriate for the long term care of your pets, including the appointment of a pet caregiver, animal care panel, and trustee.

Estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project and on-line document creation programs rarely address all of the issues that may be relevant to your state and your personal, unique situation.  Consult with a qualified legal professional, ideally someone board certified in Wills, Trusts and Estate or in Elder Law before attempting to create an estate plan on your own.  For more information, please visit HoytBryan.com or LegacyForYourPet.com.

Peggy R. Hoyt, J.D., M.B.A., B.C.S. (Florida Bar board certified specialist in Wills, Trusts and Estates and in Elder Law) practices in Central Florida.  She is a passionate animal advocate and author of All My Children Wear Fur Coats – How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet.  She is available for individual consultation or speaking engagements by contacting The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, Peggy@HoytBryan.com, 407-977-8080 or Peggy@AllMyChildrenWearFurCoats.com.


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