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Pet owners, have you thought about including your pet in your estate plan?

You don’t have to be a dog or cat fanatic to do some estate planning for your pet. In fact, there is a growing trend across the country of estate planning for family pets. While this may seem excessive to some, these plans are really not necessarily complicated, though they certainly can be.

So how does one plan for one’s pet in an estate plan? There are several ways of doing so. It can be done by leaving a bequest in one’s will. This may not be the best option, though, since the instructions are unenforceable and wills must go through the probate process.

Some states have passed laws permitting pet owners to set aside assets for their pets. This is often done by means of a trust. Trusts take effect very quickly in the event of the pet owner’s death or incapacitation, whereas a will could take longer. The cost of a pet trust may amount roughly to between $250 and $500, though costs could be more, depending on the complexity.

Pets, which are considered property, are themselves bequeathed to the trust, and money is left for their care. Some states, like Illinois, permit a judge to reduce the amount of money left in a pet trust if it is deemed to be excessive, so this may need to be taken into consideration.

Caretakers for pets should be selected carefully, and it isn’t always the case that the guardians of one’s children will be those selected as a pet’s caretaker.

Another thing to keep in mind is that law firms that set up pet trusts sometimes offer arrangements where the firm can act as the successor trustee of a pet trust, to ensure that the wishes of the owner are fulfilled and the money left for their care is properly handled.

Others make use of local animal shelter pet care programs, which take on the care of pets after the owner dies. These programs have certain participation requirements that can be looked into.

Estate planning for one’s pet is a good idea for those who are even a bit concerned about what happens to their animal in the event of their death. This is especially worth considering for single people who have no one to take immediate possession of the animal at their death.

Source: Business Insider, “Here’s A Pretty Strong Case For Including Fido In Your Estate Plan,” Becky Yerak, May 15, 2012.