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Does your estate plan consider your pets?

While the prospect of sitting down to create a comprehensive estate plan is not necessarily the most enticing prospect, those who have invested the necessary time, money and energy often find themselves left with considerable peace of mind once the process is completed.

That's because they know how hard-earned assets will be divided upon their death, who will handle finances in the event of their incapacity, and what type of medical care will be administered should they be suddenly stricken. 

As encouraging as this is, it's important for those who have already executed an estate plan to consider whether they've got everything covered every so often. For example, have they made the necessary arrangements regarding their favorite four-legged friend?

While most people might think there is relatively little they can do in terms of estate planning for their animals -- dogs, cats, birds, fish, etc. -- this is actually far from the case.

Advance veterinary directive  

As we've discussed before, it's possible to appoint a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf via a document known as a health care directive. Interestingly, it's also possible to appoint a trusted individual to make medical decisions for your pet.

Indeed, many of these forms are simply boilerplate documents requiring some blanks to be filled in that can be secured either at the vet's office or online. In other words, this important step requires minimal effort.

Revisit your will

Whether you forgot about your beloved pet or acquired them after executing your will, it's important to consider amending it to include a provision naming an individual to take possession of them in the event of your death.

Experts indicate, however, that those contemplating this step must have a conversation with the intended caregiver beforehand to ensure that they are ready, willing and able to inherit the pet(s). It's entirely possible that a family member or friend will prove reluctant to take on this added responsibility and financial obligation, meaning a wider net for caretakers may need to be cast.

Pet trust

While the name undoubtedly conjures up images of money being left to animals, this isn't what a pet trust does. Rather, it's designed to provide sufficient funds for the care and wellbeing of an animal (food, shelter, toys, treats, vet care, etc.) for the entirety of their life.

To execute a pet trust, the trustor -- i.e., the trust creator -- will need to fund the trust with sufficient assets, name a caregiver (usually the person who inherited the animal) and appoint a trustee to allocate the assets as necessary. In case you have any doubts, pet trusts are legally recognized here in Utah.

If you would like to learn more about the foregoing items or have questions about estate planning in general, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options.

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