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Estate planning and pets

Pets are often loved and cared for like family members but are often left out of the planning process when older adults in Texas and elsewhere decide who will inherit their assets upon their death. These animals are too often left to fend for themselves if there is no plan for their care.

Estate planning for a pet can be as simple or as complicated as the pet owners find necessary to ensure that their companions are taken care of when they die. Some seniors add a provision for their pets into their wills, while others set up a trust for their pets so that the person who takes care of them will have enough financial support to adequately meet their needs.

The process of estate planning for a pet often involves selecting a guardian. The person a senior chooses to look after the pets should be in agreement with the arrangement and have the time and space required to provide the necessary care. The animals may require an adjustment period after their owner dies, and therefore the guardian should have the resources to comfort the pets while they get acclimated to their new home. A pet trust can provide funds for the guardian during the initial period.

A lawyer who has experience in elder law may be able to help a senior devise an estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan may cover such issues as setting up trust funds for adult children and grandchildren to appointing a guardian for a pet. The plan may also include methods by which the pet guardian can be provided with sufficient funds to take care of the pet.

Source: NBC DFW, "Remember Pets When Estate Planning", Ben Russell, September 30, 2013

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