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Hurricane Sandy reminds pet owners to include pets in estate plans

Hurricane Sandy, besides being a potent reminder of the potential destructiveness of nature, was also a reminder of the need for including our pets in our estate planning. As our readers may have heard, a number of pets were separated from their families as a result of the storm. Many have been transported to shelters.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, over 100,000 pets may be entering shelters annual as a result of their guardian dying or otherwise becoming unable to care for them. When folks don’t provide for their pets in their will, their pets may have no immediate place to go. And with roughly 62 percent of American households having a pet, this is a problem many families may be concerned about. Still, most don’t concern themselves with it. Here we’ll give several tips for addressing the problem.

First, it helps to have an animal card and document to identify the animal, its location, any special are instructions, and the contact person who can gain access to the animal if an emergency occurs. Animal documents contain the same information as animal cards, but are included with one’s estate planning materials.

Putting one’s pet in one’s will as a backup is another good idea. Who the pet is left with may take some thought, but shouldn’t be too difficult for most people. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that wills may be contested in probate court, which could delay provisions for the pet. This can last months or more, so providing for the pet in one’s will should only be considered a backup.

Pet trusts are a good idea for those who not only want to leave their pet with a specific person and identify care instructions, but who also want to provide means of support. One can leave as little or as much as one feels necessary. These are widely considered the best way to provide for a pet.

Source: CNBC, “Estate Planning for Your Pet? Superstorm Argues Yes,” Jacoba Urist, November 12, 2012