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ESTATE PLANNING AND YOUR PETS
In the recent past I had to make difficult yet mind-easing decisions about my wishes, possessions and pets in the probability of my death.
March 4, 2019 | TheDogPress.com
Karen Rhodes, Lifestyle Editor
Facing my own demise and having been involved in extreme chaos after the loss of loved ones due to minimal or no planning for their deaths, I did not want to put my family through that if the liver transplant didn’t happen..
I tend to look at death as a natural part of life, like a timeline with a beginning and an end. The pre-planning may sound gruesome to those who don’t have small children or own animals but I think of it as helping those I love get on with the situation. I don’t want them to worry about the aftermath when they may not be in the best frame of mind to think clearly and carry out my wishes.
Organ and tissue donation needs pre-planning and the wishes and legalities of this procedure need to be explored well in advance if it is your decision to give the gift of life and health to another when you die.
I am the parent and legal guardian of a man who cannot make financial or life decisions and this was an extreme worry to me. Having been witness to relatives and friends changing into people they were not before, I felt that pre-planning allows me some say and safety for those I love. Facing death is definitely a slap in the face but in unexpected, sudden passing there is a shock factor of emotions which are likely to complicate family issues even more.
Pets and Personal Possessions
Like everyone, I have personal possessions I want to allocate to my loved ones and financial things that need to be taken care of after my demise. I could not bear the thought of certain individuals making life choices for my son, my dogs and my business in the event of my death.
My son and my dogs will live on and I would like to think I have planned the best to allow them a good life.
Are there ownership records or registration certifications for your animals? Can they be easily transferred? Have you written down (and notarized) who they should/could go to if you can no longer care for them?
Having Advance Directives and a Living Will when facing a surgery or major illness can alleviate the initial tension and difficult decision-making for loved ones. Knowing what you want can be extremely helpful to those individuals who may not be willing to make tough choices.
A competent, reasonably priced attorney can help you understand legal terms such as Power of Attorney, the responsibilities of an Executor/Executrix, what a Living Will does, how a trust functions and the different types of trusts. Knowing how to navigate the Probate Court, who is responsible for what, how to pay taxes and fees, home and asset distribution and sales, what is a fiduciary, what rights you have on family parcels and possessions, where to file which documents, etc. are legal issues you should explore.
Omsbud people can help but personally, I would be cautious of their knowledge of the legal system. These issues can be very complicated if you are faced with death and are legally unprepared. Just telling someone things you want to happen often results in bad feelings between people and if the paperwork states different objectives it is usually a document which rules over words a court might consider hearsay.
Be very cautious in your planning. There have been situations where agencies, family members, religious institutions, or professionals assigned to the planning of your Estate have gone against the wishes of the deceased.
Granted you ultimately have no control over this but you can have peace of mind and more adherences to post death wishes if you follow the advice of a competent, trusted attorney and a financial advisor.
Entities Involved In Estate Planning
Different states have different requirements for bank transfers, co-owned accounts and each state, town, county or province all want a piece of the pie. Creditors need to be dealt with prior to the distribution of the deceased’s assets. Routine tasks are often frustrating and dehumanizing, an example…try to get out of a cell phone, vehicle lease or television contract without providing a certified death certificate - it is next to impossible.
Transferring ownership of registered and non-registered animals can be tied up in estate complications unless you are proactive in your approach to the laws regarding these situations. Little Jimmy suddenly decides he does not like horses and cannot live up to the expectations of their proper care. Tangible property art work, vehicles, jewelry and other valuables have come up missing prior to the distribution of these items, horrific but true.
I do not want to be the bearer of doom and gloom I’m sure many animal owners have complicated health issues and families who can be difficult. I personally find these opportunities to pre-plan the inevitable a comfort to myself, my family and my beloved animals.
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