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Why your pets should be in your estate plan

Many people never consider including their pets in their estate plan. They assume that a family member or friend will take their animals when they die. Perhaps someone has even promised to do so. However, things change.

Animal shelters are filled with dogs and cats that bit someone in their new family or that were taken in by someone who wasn't allowed to have pets or couldn't afford to take care of one.

By including your pets in your estate plan, you are helping ensure that they will be in a loving home and receive good care after you're gone. Fortunately, Arizona is one of the states that has provisions in the law for including pets in estate plans.

The first step is to select a caretaker (beneficiary) for your animals. Choose someone whom you trust and who already knows and loves your pets. Of course, be sure that this person agrees to take on this responsibility and will notify you if that changes.

If you don't know anyone you can count on as a caretaker, you may want to consider leaving your pets to a rescue organization that will find them a good home. Again, get their agreement to this.

It's a good idea to leave money for the person or organization you've designated to care for your animals. Everyday pet care requires money, and veterinary bills can add up quickly. That is done by creating a pet trust.

Your estate planning attorney can help you draft language to specify that the money be used solely to care for your pets. You'll also need to designate what happens to any remaining funds when your last animal has died. You should provide instructions for finding another caregiver if your designated caregiver can't fulfill the responsibility.

Once you've determined who will leave your animals to (and they've agreed) and estimated how much money it will cost to care for them, your estate planning attorney can work to codify your wishes in your estate plan.

You can make it general enough to encompass whatever pets you may have when you pass away so that you don't have to change it every time you lose or adopt a pet. As with all other provisions of your estate plan, however, it's good to review your pet trust annually to see if changes are required.

Source: Bravo, "Don't Leave Pets Out of Estate Planning," Kristyn Pomranz, accessed May 09, 2018

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