Having an estate plan in place is essential to protecting your financial assets, family, future, and yes, even your pet’s needs. An estimated two-thirds of Americans have pets, and for most animal lovers, their adorable cats or dogs are considered a member of the family.

Without a strategic pet plan, your beloved pet could end up in a shelter with someone you don’t want them to be with, or they could be left alone, without food, and water for days. This situation can cause a lot of panic and stress for your pet.

To help mitigate any fears or anxiety around what happens to your pets after you die or aren’t able to care for them boils down to having the appropriate pet provisions. Below are four critical aspects you need to consider when crafting your estate plan to include your pet.

  1. Set up a pet trust: A pet trust allows you to select the person or persons you would like to care for your pet, and it outlines precisely how you would like the caretaker to care for your pet. This type of trust can be a part of your existing trust, or you can make a new trust.

After establishing a trust, you will need to fund it. Those funds will allow the appointed trustee or service provider to distribute the money appropriately when required.

  1. Establish durable power of attorney for a pet: This is a valuable resource that will allow you to bestow authority to a caretaker to seek medical care for your pet and outline how they are to do it on your behalf.
  2. Create pet care instructions: This document can include specific likes, dislikes, medical information, emergency contacts, quirky behavior, and any information you deem essential to the health and wellbeing of your pet.

Also, as your pet’s needs change over time, you must have this document separate from your pet trust, to easily update it without the hassle of making changes to your trust. This document will be a resourceful tool if your pet should be adopted.

  1. Emergency wallet card: If you should pass away in your home or become incapacitated outside of your home, this card will provide vital information to medical professionals, police, or even a neighbor on who to contact and who should care for your pet quickly and safely.

Life is unpredictable, but there is something you can control. Crafting an estate plan will not only provide your family protection and security but will also allow you to provide crucial provisions for the care of your beloved pets.