If you have a pet, you have probably thought about the time when your pet will no longer be with you. But have you thought about what will happen to your pet if you die first? Preparing a plan for your pets in advance will help ensure that they will receive continued love and care if you are no longer there to provide it. Here are some things to consider.

First, assign an emergency guardian. This is valuable to do in case of temporary incapacitation or hospitalization as well. This person should have a key to your home and instructions for care in case you are unable to be there for your pets. You may want to have a backup person in case your first contact is unavailable or unreachable. Keep a card in your wallet and at your home listing the number of pets you have and who to contact in case of emergency. Your emergency guardian should also know what your wishes are for long-term guardianship of your pets should that become necessary.

Next, you want to develop a permanent plan for your pet’s care. Consider the needs of your pet and think of the people in your life who may be a good guardian. Does your pet need a lot of exercise? Do you have multiple pets and is it important that they stay together? Are there medical issues to be taken care of? Make sure that any guardians understand your wishes and are comfortable with them. If you are unable to find a permanent guardian, you may at least know someone you trust to find good adopters for your pets for you when the time comes. 

Be sure to check in with your guardians occasionally to make sure that nothing has changed that would keep them from taking in your pet. Marriages, moves, kids, and new pets can all affect a person’s ability to add your pets to their home.

Sometimes, death doesn’t come as a sudden surprise. If you are dealing with an untreatable illness, you may wish to find adopters for your pets on your own. You can make an agreement that your pets will stay with you as long as possible before they move on to the new home you have chosen for them. Your local animal shelter may even be able to help you with this process.

If you have specific wishes for your pets, or want to set aside money for their care, you should speak with a lawyer to see what legal options there are.

Death is a time of grief and confusion for everyone, including your pets. Having a plan in place will help your heirs understand your wishes and will provide you with peace of mind knowing that your pets will continue to receive the care and love you want for them.