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Planning for your pet when you die

While most people think about their children and heirs when it comes to estate planning, pets often get left to anyone who will take them. This does not always fair well for someone's cherished companion. Many pets have known only one caretaker all of their lives and just like humans, they are going to experience a deep sense of loss.

If you have a beloved pet when you do your estate planning, you can include provisions for your four-legged friends. It is legal in Colorado to have a trust set up to care for your pets. Of course, you must also determine who will become its guardian. There are many options available to you.

You could just decide who is going to take your animals and have it noted in your will. In this case, you will want to make sure the person is willing to take on the responsibility. It is also best if you have someone your pet is already familiar with and a backup named in case something happens to your primary choice.

If you want to pay for the care of your pet throughout its life, you can have a trust fund set up with your pet as the beneficiary. A trustee can monitor the guardian to be sure your pet is getting the proper care and treatment, such as yearly vaccinations and whatever else it needs. If you go this route, don't forget to designate what happens to any leftover funds when your pet dies.

House pets such as cats and dogs are not the only type of animals that benefit from a loving owner who cares enough to include them in a will or estate planning. Horses, donkeys and other farm animals will need a new owner or caretaker too; these type of animals are much harder to place if preplanning is not done.

Your estate planning attorney can help you work out the details of setting up a trust or including your pet in your will. You should be very specific about "what ifs" in case your appointed guardian(s) cannot fulfill their role. Your executor will need to know what to do. He or she might be directed to find a new home for your beloved companion in such a scenario.

Source: People Care Pet Pantry, "Will Planning and Pet Trusts," accessed Feb. 20, 2018

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