Burial with pet? Detail it in a will

Posted Nov. 01, 2009, at 8:02 p.m.

Q. I am in hospice. They have let me have my cat with me here, but I know when I pass he is going to be heartsick. He will not adjust well to any new situation: he’s 19, arthritic, blind in one eye. Can I somehow make a legal directive to have him put down when I go? And can I have him buried with me? He has been my com-panion longer than any living creatures except my parents.

A. In order to accomplish your wish, you will need to execute a will — or amend your will if you have an existing one — to include a euthanasia provision. Generally speaking, courts have been reluctant to enforce euthanasia provisions for pets in the owner’s will. In this case, however, given your cat’s advanced age and health condition, it is not unreasonable to consider euthanasia upon your death, and it is unlikely to be deemed against public policy. It would be a good idea to explain your reasoning and your cat’s health conditions in the will provision.

Remember, you will also have to make some practical plans so that this may be carried out. In addition to making your wishes clear in your will, you need to make sure that your personal representative (the person who will administer your estate and complete all the work involved) understands why you are making the request and is willing to carry it out for you. You should also make sure your veterinarian is willing to euthanize your cat when the time comes and will be able to do so on short notice.

Burying pets with owners is allowed in some cemeteries, and not in others. Be sure to check with your cemetery regarding its regulations on this issue. In addition, you should make sure that your family and/or friends know that you would like to be buried with your cat and, if you have a prepaid burial plan, be sure to tell the funeral director about your wish. Generally, funeral directors will be willing and able to accommodate the request as long as the cemetery permits the burial in your chosen plot.

This is all part of what you are asking your personal representative to do upon your death. Be sure to tell your personal representative that he or she will need to notify the veterinarian and ask him or her to remind the funeral director of your wishes.

This column is a service of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service of the Maine State Bar Association. Its contents are a general response to the question and do not constitute legal advice. Questions are welcome. E-mail AAL@mainebar.org, describe your question and note you are a BDN reader.

Written questions mailed to “Ask a Lawyer,” Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, Maine, 04402-1329 will be forwarded to the LRIS.

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