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Do you need an estate plan for your pet?

What's going to happen to your dog or cat when you die?

Having plans in your estate for a beloved pet isn't unusual these days. If you haven't given the idea some thought before now, it might be time to consider it.

Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Decide what you want to happen to your pet

There are some shelters or agencies that will take pets after their owners die and help them find new homes. However, you may wish to see your pet go to someone you know, instead. Be comfortable with the choice you make.

2. Talk to the appropriate party

If you choose an organization, talk to the administrator to see what you need to do in order to make certain that your pet will be accepted when the time comes. You may need to provide funds for your pet's care in order to ensure a place.

If you choose a friend or family member as your pet's caretaker, make certain that person is willing to take on the task. This isn't something that you should leave as a surprise.

3. Settle any money issues

If you need or desire to leave some money to an organization or individual to cover your pet's care, you'll have to add additional paperwork to your estate plans.

Your estate planning attorney can help you determine the best way to arrange for the funds to go to the proper place or person. One option is to set the money up so that it goes directly to the caretaker through your will. Another option is to fund a trust for the benefit of your pet during your pet's lifetime. A trust offers the advantage of allowing you to dictate your pet's care even after you are gone. It also creates a legal responsibility to make sure that your pet is properly treated.

If your pet has been a good and faithful companion, take the necessary steps today to secure his or her future after you are gone.

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