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Texas pet planning: Can my pets be beneficiaries?

Texas residents looking to plan the most complete estate possible may not be clear on how to handle their furry friends in those plans. In fact, for many estate planners, their pet is the most important "person" in their lives, and for these individuals, it is vital to include the pet in their estate documentation. Fortunately, there is a wide array of options to those who wish to make their pets beneficiaries of their estate.

The most important consideration with regard to "pet planning" in estate paperwork is the decision of who will become your pet's new owner. The thought process in this decision is similar to that involved with deciding who will take care of one's young child. Not every potential adoptive pet parent is going to be able to properly care for the animal. It is therefore important to determine if the person is an "animal person," if he or he has the financial and physical capability to assume the responsibility and other concerns. Finally, and most importantly, the person should be asked if he or she is willing to take on the responsibility of being a pet heir.

Once the adoptive pet parent has been identified, it is time to edit one's will and/or trust to reflect it. If there is room in the estate to finance pet expenses, pet owners can create a financial provision within their estate plan, which will provide the heir of the pet with extra cash to finance its needs. In some cases, a simple pet trust can be drafted and funded with a small amount of money sufficient to pay for annual medical checkups, food and other provisions for one's pet.

As a part of their "pet planning," some pet owners will donate a sum of money to their favorite animal shelter or other animal-centered organization. There are many different trust creation strategies and ways to stipulate the information in one's will, which can help Texas pet owners have the peace of mind of knowing their pet is always going to be taken care of. Estate planning, after all, is about making life easier on our loved ones when we pass, and for many, it is important to include their pets as beneficiaries in this process.

Source: nwitimes.com, "ESTATE PLANNING: Planning for a pet", Christopher Yugo, April 12, 2014

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