After a $50,000 car accident, he realized that the $2,000 auto insurance premium he’d been complaining about had been a real bargain, Sarah Healy’s client Tim confessed. The client wondered whether insurance could extend to something about which he cared even more deeply than his vehicle – his pets. Yes, indeed, Healy, a broker with Aegis Group Risk Management in Witchita, Kansas, assured him.
Pet insurance is hardly new, Sarah explained to Tim. In fact, one of the very earliest policies was written to cover the dog playing Lassie on TV! A survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association revealed that, today, fully 67% of all U.S. households own a pet; 25 million of those pets are insured.
The pet industry is one of the largest in the world, and pet owner spending has steadily increased. The average pet-owning household spends nearly $1,200 annually on their pets, with 40% of that budget going towards food and treats, with most of the rest going towards healthcare. As Sarah Healy explains, emergency vet bills, teeth cleaning, and surgery costs can quadruple the annual cost of owning and caring for a pet.
How pet insurance works
The sad part of the story begins when pet owners don’t have pet insurance. According to ASPCA.org, 6.5 million companion animals land at shelters every year, and, of necessity, many are euthanized. Sarah Healy urges clients to responsibly manage the risk of unexpected pet expenses through insurance, and her agency deals with several different providers. Policy owners, she cautions, must pay for their pets’ healthcare directly and are then reimbursed by the insurance provider. Since pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, it’s important to insure pets while they are young and healthy. You cannot predict emergencies, and when they do happen, it’s often too late for coverage she warns.
Speaking of preparing before it’s too late, at Geyer Law, we urge pet owners to have a contingency plan for their pets as an important facet of their own estate planning. That includes designating a pet caretaker for when the owner is seriously ill or dies, and providing funding for the care of the animal in the form of a pet trust. Some clients bequeath pets to nonprofit sanctuaries where their pet can stay until a proper home is found.
Our work as estate planning attorneys is dedicated to helping clients provide for those who have been important in their lives. Quite often, that list of heirs includes their beloved pets.
* For more information about pet insurance, contact Sarah Healy at [email protected]
– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associate blog team