Preparing for Fire Season

4302-black-forest-fire-coloradoWildfire season is upon us.  After the last two years, those of us living in the South Metro area of the Front Range are particularly aware  of the risks we face here in Colorado.   This risk is still  very real despite the good moisture we have received this winter and spring. Make sure you, your organization, and your family are prepared for the active season ahead with this Wildfire Checklist.   Don’t live in a wildfire-prone area? Click here to check out these tips from Ready.gov on preventing home fires.  

Pets Need Planning, Too

Dogs in CB photoAccording to animal welfare organization “2nd Chance 4 Pets,” over 500,000 pets are abandoned each year due to the death or disability of their human companions. That’s 500,000 too many. What’s worse is that those pets could have been protected with just a little planning.

Think about it: what will happen to your pet if you become disabled? What if you’re no longer able to speak for yourself? How will the courts know what to do with your pet? And how can you make sure that your beloved animal doesn’t end up in a shelter somewhere or worse, alone on the streets? Because sadly, that happens all the time.

According to the ASPCA, only about 17% of dog and cat owners have taken the necessary legal steps to ensure their pets are cared for after they die.  Most of us assume that because our close family members know how much our pets mean to us, someone in the family will take responsibility for our pets after we are gone.  However, many pets that outlive their owners wind up in shelters because no formal provisions have been made for them.

How to Create a Plan to Ensure Your Pet’s Care

First, it is important that you let your estate planning attorney know that you have pets and that you want to make sure they are cared for. Your attorney can then explore with you the appropriate avenues for providing for your pets within your estate plan.  It is important to have a plan for your pet even if you do have, or do not want to specifically leave, money for the care of your animal(s).

While you can leave provisions in your Will for who you would like to have your pets at your death, an animal cannot directly own property or money because they are considered under the law personal property themselves. Thus Pet Trusts are the best option for guaranteed care of your animal companions.

While the majority of states have some form of pet trust statute, Colorado has one of the best statutes in the entire country allowing for Pets Trusts. Colorado’s statute was enacted in 1995 and allows for a pet trust to be either a testamentary trust (part of a will) or an inter vivos trust, one that is effective during the owner’s life thus covering the possibility of incapacity as well as death.

In either type of trust, to ensure there are proper checks and balances, you may want to consider naming one person to serve as trustee to handle the money, and another person as your pet’s caregiver, who would be responsible for the day-to-day care of your pet.

In your trust, you can detail exactly how your pet is to be treated – how many vet and groomer visits per year, what the pet should be fed, and any special medical needs that will require special attention.  You will need to fund your pet trust sufficiently to cover your pet’s anticipated life span, including a cushion if your pet lives longer and needs additional medical care.

For additional reading about planning for your pets visit ASPCA’s pet care page or learn about the Denver Dumb Friends League Pet Guardianship program.

If you would like more information about protecting your loved ones – including your pets — call our office today at 720-248-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.