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Caring for pets in late life and beyond

Pets can be wonderful companions for individuals who are in later years of life. Individuals or couples who live alone after children have left the nest often seek comfort and companionship from dogs, cats and other pets. But experts note that when you have a pet in late life, it's always possible that your furry friend might outlive you. Because of this, you might want to consider what you can do to protect your pet now and when you are gone.

Estate planning can include the interests of pets, even if you aren't looking to leave your fortune to a dog or cat. You might consider laying out some wishes for your pet in your will. Such wishes might include who will care for your pet when you are gone and how that care will be funded. If you're going to designate someone as the guardian of your pet, though, make sure you talk to them first. Not everyone is able or willing to take a pet into their home.

Because pet care can be expensive, especially if you have a specialty pet or one who is older or ailing, you might consider arranging financial support for your pet. Not only does this make it more likely someone will be able to care for him or her, but it also reduces the burden of pet care on friends and family. You can set up a trust and designate assets in it for the care of your pet. This gives you some control over how your pet is cared for.

While pets might not seem like the most important consideration, especially to those who are not animal people, if you have a furry friend, then it's likely they are very important to you. Proactive estate planning helps you protect yourself, your heirs and your pets.

Source: Humane Society, "Backup Plan," James Hettinger, accessed Dec. 18, 2015

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