What happens (or doesn’t) when Spot outlives you

Adriene Hill Sep 14, 2012

What happens (or doesn’t) when Spot outlives you

Adriene Hill Sep 14, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Pets, cuddly and companionable as they are, can run you a pretty penny. You gotta feed them, board them when you’re out of town, take them to the vet when they get sick. Maybe splurge and buy them a super cute witch costume for Halloween (or not).

But what happens when you’re not around to do all that stuff anymore? Who’s going to take care of Fido then? The ASPCA wants more people to start considering their pets when they do their estate planning.

Marketplace’s Adriene Hill reports.

Adrienne Hill: I’ll admit it. When I got assigned this story, I giggled. I mean, pet estate planning? It seems like a concern of a very, very small percentage of us — those with standard poodles and Bichon Frises out there. The Leona Helmsley’s of the world…right?

Kim Bressant-Kibwe: Not at all. Not at all. Quite the contrary.

OK. I stand corrected.

Kim Bressant-Kibwe is a lawyer with the ASPCA. She says it’s not just a rich person thing: everyone should plan ahead.

Bressant-Kibwe: There’s a lot of situations where people don’t leave money at all.

Lawyers say the most important thing is to put in writing who will take care of your pet. Have it in your will, a legal trust or contract. If you don’t have a plan for who’s going to take Buddy…

Rachel Hirshfeld: People won’t know who to give the dog to.

Attorney Rachel Hirshfeld specializes in pet estate planning. She says, if no one steps forward–

Hirschfeld: Your dog will most probably go to a shelter and be euthanized. Those are the numbers.

The experts also recommend you keep a pet dossier, a document with information about Scratchy’s drugs, his vet and whether he eats wet food or dry. And if you are one of those people lucky enough to be able to set aside money for your pet, Bressant-Kibwe suggests you not start a conversation with a potential guardian there.

Bressant-Kibwe: I certainly would want to know where the person’s intentions lie. Do they really love my pet or are they out for the dough? The pet’s dowry, so to speak.

Gotta keep the gold diggers away from the yard diggers.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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