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Florida estate plans should include four-legged friends

Everyone who drafts an estate plan in Florida tries to consider all of the things they hold near and dear to them and those they love. But what about those four-legged loved ones? What is to come of them after the departure of their loyal companion? The friend of a Florida woman who passed away is finding out first-hand how complicated it can be if one's pets are not included in the estate plan or living will of an individual.

The owner of two Boston terrier dogs became ill and was no longer able to care for the animals, so they were taken to a nearby animal rescue center during the month of August. Before the woman's death, she had made verbal requests to a friend of hers about her wishes for the beloved pets to be kept in the friend's home. Unfortunately, the now deceased woman did not formalize these requests in her estate plan or will. After her death in December, the friend attempted to claim the dogs from the animal rescue but was denied.

The animal rescue center will not release the animals to the friend of the deceased woman. The owner of the shelter claims that she too had made verbal arrangements for the animals with the owner of the Boston terriers before her death. The dogs were to be kept together and cared for (including medications for one of the dogs who has seizures) for free at the rescue center until a good home could be found for them.

The owner of the animal rescue has evidently contacted her lawyer. Her attorney advised her not to let the two dogs go into anyone's care until after the will is filed and a release is received from the executor of the estate. The attorney's advice is meant to prevent any liability on the part of the animal rescue owner, though the action is perhaps not in accordance with the wishes of the deceased.

This unfortunate situation could have been avoided had the dogs' owner included them in her estate plan. It is important to each and every animal owner that their pet receives love and care. For Floridians to ensure the care of a pet in the event of one's own death, the care instructions should definitely be included in an estate plan.

Source:, "Make sure pets get put in will," Melanie Payne, Dec. 7, 2011

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