You are a responsible pet person. Your animals are sterilized or you’ve taken other effective steps to prevent unwanted litters. Your animals are microchipped and your contact information is current. Vaccinations and checkups? You bet — all up to date.
Yet often forgotten (or maybe avoided) even by responsible pet people is the most important gift you can give your animals: ensuring they are cared for upon your death or incapacitation. Death and incapacitation are hardly fun topics, but unless we have plans in place, our pets will be at the mercy of others when we are gone.
Las Cruces City Councilor and ASCMV Board Chair Becky Corran recently arranged for a local animal welfare nonprofit to care and find homes for her animals in the event of her death. She made a smaller financial gift now and will make a larger gift upon her death. Corran set up her will without a lawyer, but she carefully researched the statutory language required in New Mexico and used the paperwork and language provided by her chosen animal welfare nonprofit.
Corran said that as a public health professor she discusses everything from health and wellness to death and dying with her students, yet realized she was telling them to plan for their future but not doing it herself. The pandemic “really brought home the need to prepare for the unexpected,” she noted. Corran both wanted to make sure her pets would be cared for and didn’t want to burden her family and friends with finding homes for her animals, noting, “Your family and friends will be distressed enough already, and you don’t want to add to that.”
Local animal welfare nonprofit ACTion Programs for Animals (APA) has a well-established planned gift process to help you arrange care for your animals after your death or incapacitation. APA Executive Director Michel Meunier offers practical and important advice for planning for your pets’ care after your death (whether you work with APA or another organization).
First, Meunier emphasizes that the organization, your friends, family, and neighbors all need to know of your plan for your pets. The very best plans don’t matter if no one knows about them — simply leaving money in your will and requesting an organization care for your animal isn’t enough. The organization, your friends, family, and neighbors all need to know what to do with your animals if you die so that your pets don’t end up at the ASCMV before your will is even opened.
Second, people ask Meunier how much money they should leave an organization to ensure that care costs are covered. Meunier says APA has no specific guidelines, but people should take into account their animals and their needs. For example, if you have five big dogs at the time you pass, an organization may not have enough space or fosters to accommodate them immediately, and they may need to be boarded until there is. Do your animals require medication or have other special healthcare needs? Are your animals older? Large? They might be harder to place, and the more money you leave the better an organization can absorb the costs of long-term care for your pet.
APA will work to find a loving home for your pet, and if your gift provides funds to help with a pet’s healthcare, you increase the chances that your pet finds a happy home, especially if a potential adopter has limited financial means. Meunier stresses that APA doesn’t want any animal to be kenneled long term and wants your pet to have the best chance possible to find a new forever home. Your gift helps them find that new home.
Third, Meunier says that APA has its own planned gift agreement and taking an organization’s agreement to your financial planner or attorney is another good way to ensure your wishes are carried out. APA’s (or another rescue’s) agreement can be incorporated into your will.
Above all, Meunier says she can’t emphasize enough the importance of letting the rescue organization know what you are doing and that using the organization’s in-house agreement will simplify the process. Meunier states, “If you are entrusting us with your animals, we need to know. Don’t surprise your chosen organization. We can do best by your pet when we have as much information as possible: what animals are coming to us, their history, their personalities, and if your gift for their care is coming from a retirement plan, insurance policy, or somewhere else. The more we know, the better we can care for your pet.”
If you want more information about APA’s planned giving process and agreement, leave a message at 575-644-0505 and either Michel or APA Adoption Center Manager Nora Insurriaga will return your call.
No one likes to think about the day they are no longer here. But all too often that day means beautiful, much-loved pets face an unknown future at the ASCMV when they are brought in by family members of the deceased who don’t want or can’t take their animals. Plan today to prevent that from happening tomorrow.
Elaine Stachera Simon writes for the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley. Follow on Facebook (facebook.com/ASCMV), check out ascmv.org or call 575-382-0018.
More Notes from the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley: