We Boomer Grandparents Should Consider Being Realistic About Pet Adoption and Include Our Fur Babies in Our Wills and/or Create a Pet Trust for Their Care Upon Our Disability or Death

When PopPop and I were ready to adopt two kittens, we were asked if we had plans for their care after our deaths as their life expectancy is twenty years or more. We did not consider this when we thought to bring these new family members into our home. We adopted two brothers from the same litter (Salt and Pepper, Lynx Point Siamese), as intelligent, loving and socialized as we could ever hope for. As our beloved fur babies will always remain our babies, I added the years of their lives to ours.  A Boomer, I see myself as forever young but the reality is that it is likely that our fur babies will outlive us.  I realized that plans were a necessity and immediately got the agreement of our daughter to adopt them and care for them upon our disability or death. Actually, she said she is willing to take them right now.

I was advised that those in their eighties may be turned down for pet adoption as it is not fair to the pets. I wonder how many of us approaching our eighties or in our eighties, or even in our seventies, have considered that. We do not think of a time we will be unable to care for a pet due to disability or death. The least we can do is think about how to provide for our pets should we be unable to or not available to do so. We know how much we mourn them upon their death, and know they will mourn us and want someone there for them to take over their care and love them.

I am a member of the Facebook group Florida Purebred/Purebred Mix Cats For Adoption. After seeing posts such as the following, my heart hurts. It is time at our stage of life that we Boomers consider being realistic about pet adoption, and how hard it is to place an older fur baby when we pass.

“I live in Mount Dora FL. Due to recent passing of my mother I need to find a new & loving home for her cat. Missy is a persian mix 8-10 yrs. She’s spayed & current with her vaccines. I am not able to keep her because of allergies. We really need some help. Once I find the best home for her I’ll be happy to bring her to you. Thanks in advance for any help provided.”

“A close friend of mine passed away suddenly today. I’m trying to help her children Find a home for her two chocolate point Himalayan cats. Both boys neutered and must stay together. They are about 15 years old but healthy. “

“Are you looking for a sweet older cat in need of a happy ending? Check out Winnie. She’s a 13 year old lynx point with a medium hair length coat and front declawed. She came to us after her owner died. Winnie would love a new home where she can live out her remaining years. “

There was a new post about a cat whose owner had to go to an assisted living facility, how upset the cat is, and needing to find a new home for it.  Even if we make provisions for and have a plan for our fur babies after our need to move into an assisted living facility, or disability or deaths, we need friends or family we trust to have them in charge.

As a lawyer, I always recommend that everyone use a lawyer to prepare documents. Use a specialist in wills and trusts, a lawyer who is board certified, one who is considered an expert in the field. Our fur babies are as precious to us as our children and grandchildren and we can prepare a will and a trust for their benefit too.

What options are available to us?

A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and more.  Everyone should have a will. A pet is considered property, no matter how much we consider our fur babies members of our family, and distributed as property, just like specific provisions for distribution of family heirlooms.

A trust is a legal document that allows a third party, a trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary(ies). You (called the settlor, the creator of the trust) can create a pet trust to leave money for the care and maintenance of your pet(s) in the event of your disability or death. See, the ASPCA Pet Trust Primer for a list of considerations in protecting your fur baby.

The trustee retains legal title to the property and assets in the trust, but they are required to use those assets for the care of your pet(s). Pet trusts are perfectly legal and enforceable. In Florida, there is a statute specifically addressing a pet trust, Florida Statutes 736.0408 “Trust for care of an animal.”

(1) A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal.

(2) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.

(3) Property of a trust authorized by this section may be applied only to the intended use of the property, except to the extent the court determines that the value of the trust property exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Except as otherwise provided in the terms of the trust, property not required for the intended use must be distributed to the settlor, if then living, otherwise as part of the settlor’s estate.

We love our fur babies, and hope the person(s) we entrust the care of our pets love them and care for them as we would, but the pets will likely be older, require extra care, may require extra medical care and even get serious or terminal illnesses. These issues and how you want them taken care of and money for extraordinary medical care, if you so choose, and death (burial or cremation) should be addressed very specifically in writing in a formal document.  You do not want someone to question that you have set aside too much trust property as in (3) above in the statute.  You may not want extraordinary measures used to keep an ill or dying pet alive.

If you do not have anyone you can trust to care for your fur babies, you may name an organization that specializes in animal care for a set fee. There are a few programs around the country that profess to care for them. Check these out carefully or, better yet, let an expert, board certified, wills and trusts lawyer help you with all the alternatives, including this alternative. See, for example, Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, 979-845-1188

For the joy our pets bring to our lives, let us think about their long term care if we cannot care for them due to disability or death.



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