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Providing for Fido and Fluffy with a companion animal trust

For most people, estate planning revolves around ensuring the distribution of their assets is executed correctly. Parents, spouses, siblings and children are commonly included as part of estate administration, but there is now an increasing number of people who opt to include the furry, four-legged members of their family as well. Pet owners in Canton as well as in the rest of the nation often view their pets as valued members of the family, and they want to ensure their pets are provided for in the event of their death or incapacitation.

Here in Michigan, it is possible to create a companion animal trust to select a pet caregiver and designate a portion of one's estate for the care of pets. Many pet owners choose to do this in order to prevent animals from being placed in shelters and possibly being euthanized if their owners die or otherwise can no longer provide for them.

Things that pet owners need to consider before creating such documents is who they could trust to care for their pets, how much money should be set aside for each pet, and how the document could be amended in the event one of the included pets die or a new pet is brought into the family. A person considering this route should speak to the chosen caregiver in advance and gain approval before moving forward with estate planning.

The state of Michigan is one of several states that recognizes companion animal trusts. Pet owners who want to protect the animals as well as the humans in their lives should seek solid advice about estate planning, including how to execute their wishes regarding who inherits their personal property upon their death.

Source: AnnArbor.com, "Pets: ASPCA partners with Legal Zoom to help pet owners when considering pets in the estate planning process," Lorrie Shaw, Jan. 22, 2013

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