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How to plan for your pets in your will

Many Florida residents already have excellent estate planning documents to provide for their human heirs, but what about their pets? Experts say that poor planning for your furry friends could cause them to be sent to a shelter, or, even worse, euthanized. Some families watch, horrified, as the decedent's children simply set the pets loose into the wild because they are unwilling to care for the animals. Setting aside financial resources for the care of your animals after your death is an important consideration for every pet owner.

You do not, of course, have to leave all of your worldly possessions to your pet, though that is one option. Who could forget the famous dog Trouble, whose heiress owner Leona Helmsley left her $12 million from her personal fortune? No matter how much money you have, you can make provisions to protect your pet from an unwanted fate when you pass away.

People with pets should first consider who will be responsible for their care. Experts recommend naming at least one or two backup caretakers in case of emergency. If you are leaving your pet to someone who is not a family member, you should set aside money for that pet's care after your death. Some people set up small trusts for this purpose, while others simply include the financial gift in their will.

One local couple has even provided a thank you gift for their pets' caretakers. After the dogs die, the caretaker will be allowed to access the remaining funds in the trust. Others have created estate plans that will gift all assets to their animals. This is a wise move for people who do not have nearby relatives who might be willing to take in the pets after the owners' deaths.

A comprehensive estate plan should not only consider the financial obligations to your human family members, but also to your fuzzy family as well. Consult a qualified attorney to determine how much money you should set aside for the care of your pet after your death.

Source: My Fox Tampa Bay, "How to provide for pets in your will," Cynthia Smoot, Feb. 26, 2013

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