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Trusts may be an estate planning option for family pets

When preparing to create an estate plan, a person might take time to think of all the people and property that he or she considers important. At a certain point, people might begin to wonder what will happen to their beloved pet if they pass away before the animal does. Thankfully, Michigan law permits trusts to be created.

Individuals might be tempted to simply create a provision in their will that designates a certain amount of money for their pet's care. However, pets are considered property, even though a person might view them as family members. As such, it's impossible to bequeath assets to something that is legally considered property.

As such, a pet trust might be the best option to ensure that a pet can be cared for in its owner’s absence. Under the terms of the trust, a person can designate a caretaker and outlay funds for care. Additionally, the trustee is legally obligated to carry out the terms of the trust to the letter, so a person can be assured that their animal will be treated as he or she wishes.

Of course, in order to ensure the best possible success for the trust's administration, it's probably best to discuss the plan with the person who will be charged with caring for the pet. This way, a dog or cat doesn’t become an unwelcome or unexpected burden.

At this time, a record-setting 68 percent of American households include a pet, according to an American Pet Products Association Survey. Even though so many people have welcomed pets into their homes, only 9 percent of cat and dog owners have included their animals in an estate plan. Thankfully, the percentage of people who have accommodated for their pets is on the rise.

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

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