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Taking care of pets during the estate planning process

The number of Washington, D.C., residents providing for their pets in their estate plans is growing. People are realizing that it is just as important to take care of the family pets as it is the rest of the family. Without making arrangements for them through estate planning, the fate of the animals is unclear.

Once an individual has chosen and obtained the agreement of a person willing to take care of his or her pets after death, a specific appointment is made in the will. That way, everyone will know to whom the pet is to go. This also avoids the possibility of the animal or animals ending up in a shelter.

Many Washington, D.C., residents take caring for their pets after their death one step further. Pet trusts provide specific instructions regarding the care of an individual's pets. Additionally, the trust can be funded to provide the person caring for the pet with some financial assistance. This is especially helpful if certain dietary or other health considerations exist that could require more financial resources than the caretaker has on hand or is willing to pay.

Pets rely on their owners for nearly everything, much in the way that small children do. Without estate planning to guide family in their care after an individual's death, pets may not receive the same level of care and love they were previously accustomed to. Many people fail to include them in an estate plan due to the belief that they will outlive their pets. In most cases, that would be true, but there is no guarantee.

Source: nwitimes.com, "ESTATE PLANNING: Planning for a pet", Christopher Yugo, April 12, 2014

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