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How should pets be considered in Florida estate plans?

We've discussed before how pets can be left in limbo when their human companions' estate plans don't offer detailed instructions upon the owner's death. West Palm Beach pet lovers may want to consider including plans for the care of their animal companions among other estate planning goals. The fate of a pet often goes overlooked in estate planning, but tools like trusts and simple will provisions can help ensure that assets are designated to provide for a pet's ongoing care once the owner has passed away.

The use of trusts to provide for pet care is becoming increasingly popular. A trust can spell out how much of the trust principal should be used for basic care needs and authorize a trustee to draw extra funds for emergency care and other veterinary procedures. As an added incentive to take good care of a furry friend, a trust can also provide an allowance for the designated caregiver.

Another easy option to provide for a pet's well-being is to designate a caretaker in a will. A gift of cash to the caretaker can be accompanied by a request that the money be used to provide for the pet's needs.

One of the most important considerations in estate planning for a pet may be the choice of a caretaker. An all-too-common occurrence when people fail to plan ahead for their pets is that the pet ends up in the hands of an unwilling care provider.

Whether through trusts or wills, estate planning provisions for a pet's care should be reasonable in scope and should make the owner's wishes clear. Designating large sums of money for pet care or failing to make one's intentions clear can sometimes upset family members and lead to probate contests.

Even though Americans are living longer than ever, pets often outlive owners for a variety of reasons. Thoughtful estate planning can afford peace of mind in the knowledge that a beloved pet will be left in the care of someone with resources available to provide for the pet's ongoing needs.

Source: Forbes, "What will happen to Fido when you die?" April 17, 2012

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