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Pet trusts becoming more common in Texas estate planning

Many in Texas and across the nation own pets and love them like family. However, surprisingly few people make considerations in their estate plan for these pets in the event that they die or are incapacitated. It seems that this might be changing, though, as the percentage of people with pet provisions in their wills has been increasing since 2010. Anyone in the process of estate planning who owns a beloved pet may want to look into the possibility of establishing a pet trust.

The majority of American households own a pet -- 68 percent in 2012. Yet 2012 statistics from the American Pet Product Association show that only nine percent of dog owners and nine percent of cat owners made financial arrangements in their estate plan for the care of their pets. However, this number is up slightly from 2010, which showed that six percent of cat owners and five percent of dog owners included their pets in their will.

Typically, setting up a pet trust involves appointing a trustee -- who can also be the caretaker -- to pay veterinarian bills with the funds in the trust and ensure that the designated caretaker is taking good care of the pet. It may also be beneficial to designate a backup caretaker and plan for what to do with the remainder of the money in the trust once the pet dies. It is also possible to forgo a pet trust and just leave money in the will for the care of a pet to a designated caretaker. However, the caretaker would not legally be required to keep the pet or use the money for its intended purpose.

Most states, including Texas, allow pet trusts to be included in the estate planning documents. This is the only way to ensure that a pet will be cared for as intended if the owner dies or becomes too injured or ill to take care of it. Pet owners who want to learn more about this process may find it beneficial to speak to someone who is familiar with our state's probate laws.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills, Anne Tergesen, Jan. 12, 2014

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