Formal vs. Informal Arrangements
Informal arrangements are those that are not legally enforceable. They can be oral or written agreements made with family, friends, veterinarians, dog walkers, day-care/kennel staff, animal trainers, breed rescue groups and local humane groups. These arrangements usually do not involve the assistance of an attorney.
If you decide to use an informal arrangement, it is important to keep the following in mind:
- Do not assume that the caretakers you have selected, including rescue organizations, will be able to accept the responsibility of care. You need to be sure to speak directly with each individual and /or organization about this commitment in order to be sure they are willing and able to act as a potential guardian for your pet.
- It is best to have a few successive and/or temporary guardians in place for the future care of your pet. This way, if the primary guardian you've chosen is unable to accept the responsibility at the time it arises, your pet will not be left without a home. Circumstances change, so it is best always to have a backup plan.
- Informal arrangements with family and friends are generally unenforceable. You are relying entirely upon the integrity and continued health and ability of the person or organization you have chosen. Choose wisely!
Formal arrangements are legally enforceable provisions for the future care of your pet. They include providing instructions in your will, establishing a pet trust, creating a limited power of attorney, or writing a letter of instruction to your estate. Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League offers a special Peace of Mind Program as another option.
While making a provision in your will for the care of your pet is certainly possible, it has some drawbacks. First, your direction takes effect if and when the estate is administered. This can take time, especially if there are any conflicts among beneficiaries. Provisions for the pets are not implemented until notifications are completed and all conflicts are resolved.
Florida Statute § 736.0408 allows a trust to be created for the care of an animal or animals alive during your lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal, or upon the death of the last surviving animal covered by the trust. You want to be sure, in creating a pet trust, to carefully consider the beneficiary of any funds remaining once the trust is terminated. If you are establishing a pet trust, decide if you want Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League to be the Organization of Last Resort (OLR) for your pet. The OLR can step in if your pet guardians become unable to serve in their designated capacity. The OLR also becomes the beneficiary of any remaining funds.
Limited Durable Power of Attorney
A limited durable power of attorney can be used to designate someone to make decisions regarding the care of your pet should you become unable. This person will only have the ability to make decisions about your pet during your lifetime. Consequently, you will still need to make permanent arrangements for your pet's future care.
Letter of Instruction
A Letter of Instruction can be used to designate a future caregiver for your pet and to leave specific guidelines for our pet's care when you are gone. It is a flexible way to arrange for the care of your pet, but it has some limitations. For example, it does not have the same effect as other legal documents and if included as a supplement to a will, it only takes effect upon actual administration of the estate (see Will Provision above).