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Providing for your pets' well-being after you're gone

Most pet owners think of their cat, dog, bird or other pet as a family member, not just a pet. Estate planning unfortunately usually does not include those beloved pets and therefore they are not provided for in the event of your death.

The fact, according to a recent ASPCA survey, is that among all cat and dog owners, only 17 percent have provided for their four-legged family members' care and feeding by taking the necessary legal steps toward putting them in their estate plan in the event of their untimely death. Too many pets end up in animal shelters because people incorrectly assume that friends or family will inevitably take care of their four legged friends when they die.

Legal options for pet owners are now available in almost all states where a trust can be created for pet care. In 2012, a legal website partnered with the ASPCA to put together an agreement between a designated guardian and a pet owner to provide for their pet's care. To determine how much money should be left to a designated guardian to properly care for your pet, add up all of the basic annual pet care costs like grooming, veterinary care and food, then multiply that figure by the projected number of years left in your pet's life. Don't forget to include some extra funds for the rising medical costs related to aging.

It's important not to depend solely on a valid will when it comes to your pets. So, start by putting together a pet profile containing medical conditions and medications, veterinarian contact info, as well as the type and amount of food to feed him or her. And, consulting a professional in the area of estate planning could mean the difference between an animal shelter or a long, comfortable life for your canine, feline or feathered friend long after you're gone.

Source: Kiplinger, "Put a Plan in Place to Ensure Pets", Eleanor Laise, June 24, 2013

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