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Can power of attorney documents safeguard beloved pets?

Pet owners take many steps to make sure their pets are cared for, especially if the owner has to leave town or can otherwise not care for them. While these short breaks are often planned for, many British Columbia pet owners do not think to put safeguards in place for their pets should they become incapacitated. Power of attorney documents, living trusts, and other preparation can prevent confusion about who should care for a pet in the case the owner is no longer capable of doing so.

Pets are legally considered property. When someone becomes incapacitated, their power of attorney documents designate who will become responsible for their property, including pets. Without this documentation, a legal process may be needed to determine who will take on guardianship of one's estate, including who will be responsible for pets. Either way, the person with guardianship will have the latitude to make decisions, which may mean they could give the pet away if they feel it is a drain on the estate.

Some owners have more specific intentions about what should happen to their furry friends if they are no longer able to care for them. In these cases, revocable living trusts can be used to set limitations on what a guardian can and cannot do. Wishes can be specific, and the designated trustee will be legally obliged to follow one's wishes.

A combination of estate planning documents and trusts where more specific wishes are needed can help someone prepare for the future. If one is expecting their pet's new guardian to care for them in a certain way, it is important to set aside funds to make this care possible. Other options, such as Animal Life-Care Centres, could also be considered. Anyone with questions about power of attorney rights and responsibilities should work with a British Columbia lawyer to clarify the legal options available.

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