What place do your pets have in estate planning?

Have you ever stopped to think about what would happen to your pet or pets in the event of your untimely death? For many people, there may be an assumption that somebody will step in to care for the ownerless pet. While this may be true for some, it is no guarantee. Especially for those who are single or elderly, the question of what happens to their pet may not be one they wish to leave to chance.

Including pets in estate planning has gained popularity in recent years. In Georgia, a law passed in 2010 even began recognizing pet trust litigation, leaving owners more planning options than simply giving instructions in their will.

Although a person can specify his or her wishes for a pet in a will, it isn't possible to name the pet as a beneficiary of the estate, since pets are considered property, and property cannot inherit property. In addition, illnesses during an estate owner's lifetime or delays in the administration of their estate after death could prevent a chosen caregiver from actually being selected or could prevent them from receiving the funds they need to care for the pet.

A good strategy to plan to coverage these possibilities is to include language about pets in a financial power of attorney or revocable living trust. The former allows the pets to be provided for in the event of incapacity, and the latter allows one to provide funds, directions for care and burial instructions.

Those who want to ensure their pets will be cared for after they are gone should speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine the best way to do so.

Source: MDJonlin.com, "Provide for pets in your estate plan," William G. Lako, September 21, 2012.

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