Every holiday there is another blog post about protecting your dog from the dangers of each season. For example, protecting your pet from candy and costumes during Halloween. But what about protecting your pet if the absolute worst thing should happen, what if something happens to you? I know it’s not something we ever want to think about but tragedies do happen and it’s our job to protect our family no matter what. So I talked to Justin Bertron from Bertron Law, an estate attorney in Denver, here’s what he had to say about protecting your pet.
1. What is something you think your clients are too hard on themselves about?
I have seen numerous clients beat themselves up for not having the “perfect family,” as if such a thing exists. Conflicts can come up in any family, for all sorts of reasons, regardless of an individual’s background. Life is complex and making estate planning decisions can be stressful, regardless of your family situation. Establishing an estate plan that clearly defines what will be done and who will do it will minimize any potential family conflicts or stressors.”
2. What is something most people might not know about your firm or be surprised by?
People are often surprised my firm offers our services at a flat rate, instead of the traditional billable hour. We see our role as educators. Our job is to learn about you, educate you on the various planning options, and advise you on deciding which plan is best for you. We believe charging a flat fee helps create an environment that allows us to provide great service at a fee our clients can expect and afford.
3. What do you wish more people knew about estate planning?
I wish more people understood how important estate planning is, not only for you, but for your loved ones. Generally, people do not view estate planning as a priority because it’s not something that immediately impacts them. The problem, however, is if you do not have an estate plan when you need it, you are too late, and your loved ones will suffer because of it. Helping clients navigate the issues of having a loved one who cannot make their own medical and financial decisions, without even basic estate planning (i.e., financial and medical powers of attorney, will, etc.), is one of the most difficult roles for an attorney. The client must go to a court and be appointed as the incapacitated person’s guardian and/or conservator. This is almost always very expensive, time consuming, and emotionally and physically draining.
4. What should people definitely do, and what should they definitely avoid doing to protect their dog?
Dogs are a part of the family, so they should they should be treated like it! Just like parents for minor children, dog owners should name a caretaker (i.e., a family member, friend, charity, humane organization, etc.) for their pet if something happens to them. Once you have selected a caregiver, you should discuss your wishes for your dog with them and confirm they agree to assume responsibility for your dog if something happens to you. Also, if you have the means, you should consider setting aside funds to be used to care for your dog. Once you’ve made these decisions it is critical you put your wishes in writing.
The number one thing people should avoid doing to protect their dog is leaving it to chance. I often hear, “I talked to John and he promised to take care of my pets if something happens to me,”. As with estate plans for humans, the same holds true for your pets. There is nothing that will guarantee your wishes for your dog will be honored, unless it is in writing and discussed with all the involved parties. Too often those verbal promises are not upheld in the way they are intended.
5. What’s your best tip for someone trying to create a good relationship with their own estate planner?
I think it is really important to sit down with your estate planner and interview them before you decide to work with them. Estate planning is very personal, so you want to work with someone you connect with and who understands what is most important to you. If you do not connect with an attorney, it is perfectly acceptable to find another attorney you do feel comfortable working with. In order to help our potential clients evaluate overall fit, our firm offers a no-obligation, initial meeting to discuss your family, assets, goals, and educate you about estate planning.
Thank you Justin!