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Estate planning in Michigan to care for your pet

Many pet owners love their pets like members of the family. Sadly, the law doesn't look at pets as members of the family. Instead, pets are legally considered property. Just because your pet is considered property from a legal standpoint doesn't mean that you can't plan for your pet's care once you are gone. Michigan readers might like to learn how a pet can be included in estate planning documents.

In order to include your pet's care as part of your estate plan, you have to create a trust for your pet. In Michigan, per Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated 700.2722(2)(3), a pet trust terminates when no pet covered by the trust is still living; however, in section (3)(a), a limit of 21 years is instituted for a pet trust. That means that your pet trust can cover your pet for 21 years but no longer. For pet owners of dogs, cats and many other animals, 21 years is sufficient. For pet owners of long-lived pets like parrots or some reptiles, that might not cover the pet's entire life.

When creating a pet trust, it is important to cover all aspects of the pet's life. You should create stipulations for the pet's food, veterinary care, housing and any other aspect of your pet's life that is important to you. As part of the trust, you should also name who will care for your pets if something happens to you. That person is the trustee.

Another consideration for pet trusts is what will happen to any assets remaining in the trust when the trust terminates. It is a good idea to name someone other than the trustee as the remainder beneficiary to ensure that the trustee takes proper care of the pet without regard to the trust's property.

Because creating a pet trust is an in-depth process, it is important to get answers to your questions. Understanding exactly what you need to do to provide for your pet when you are gone will likely give you peace.

Source: Spectrem's Millionaire Corner, "Estate Planning Basics: Creating a Pet Trust" Donald Liebenson, Apr. 28, 2014

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