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Trusts and dogs: Planning an estate to include a pet

Many people in California go to great lengths to document their wishes concerning distribution of assets after they die. Some, however, overlook the need to provide for their pets. Careful estate planning is a worthwhile endeavor that helps protect an estate owner's interests and provides for loved ones. It may also be a good idea to include trusts and instructions in a plan that pertains to a beloved dog, cat or other animal.

Merely discussing the issue and asking someone to take care of a pet when the time comes may not be enough. It is often helpful to put such wishes in writing so no stone is left unturned not only regarding who will take possession of a beloved pet, but who will be financially responsible for its care. In this regard, trusts can be useful tools.

An estate owner can set aside money expressly designated for pet care should an animal outlive its owner. Current data states nearly 70 percent of all households in the United States include at least one pet. This means many people who die each year leave behind one or more pets that need someone to care for them.

There is actually a type of freestanding trust for pet care that would exist in an estate plan outside a will. This would help ensure no alterations are made to the amount of money set aside if the will were to be contested. Leona Helmsley included $12 million for pet care in her will; after her death, her will was contested and the court lowered the amount to $2 million. To determine what type of trusts are best for one's goals, a pet owner in California may consult with a probate and estate planning attorney for guidance.

Source: animalwellnessmagazine.com, "Setting Up a Pet Trust", Barbara Nefer, Accessed on Nov. 29, 2016

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