What happens when a pet owner dies before their beloved animal?
Keenan Knopke, president of Curlew Hills Memory Gardens Pet Cemetery, says it all depends on the plan in place.
About 70 area residents will learn how to make that plan when they attend an estate planning seminar, sponsored by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Tampa Bay and the Curlew Hills Pet Cemetery, from noon to 2 p.m. today at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
Featured speakers Knopke and St. Petersburg attorney Cynthia Orozco will address traditional issues relating to estate planning, as well as how to plan for the future of a pet after the owner's death.
Knopke said our four-legged friends often get overlooked when people are planning for the end.
"People do plan for themselves. They are aware of trusts and the need to make family members aware of their final wishes," he said. "But people can preplan and should preplan for their pets."
Knopke said he's seen many grieving family members struggle over what to do with their loved one's pet after they pass, and having a plan in place can relieve at least one stress during a difficult time.
"We're going to talk about getting your house in order. Pets are as much a part of the family today as people and they shouldn't be left behind," he said.
Nora Hawkins, marketing director for the SPCA, said people often assume a friend or family member will take care of their pets and the animals end up at the shelter.
"None of us likes to think about not being here," she said. "People just don't realize that there are better ways to set up a caretaker for their pets."
Hawkins said a change in state law in 2003 made it easier to set up trusts to provide for the care of animals, and helps protect pet owners from unscrupulous people who would take money promising to care for the animal and not follow through.
Still, most people aren't aware of their options and fail to plan, she said.
Although there is no more seating available for the free seminar, anyone interested in estate planning for their pets can order a free brochure from the SPCA, which includes information on state laws, funding options and a planning checklist.
To order call (727) 581-3249 or online at www.spcafl.org.