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Lombard estate planning attorneyAn estate plan generally involves human heirs, such as children and grandchildren, but this is not always the case. Some individuals have non-human dependents to consider. Does that mean everyone should include their pet in an estate plan? Not necessarily, yet it might be worth considering if there is even the slightest possibility that your companion may outlive you. It is important to realize that this provision might be important, and how you can take the first step toward implementing it in your estate plan.

Why Plan for Your Pets?

When the owner of an animal dies or becomes incapacitated, the animal may end up at a shelters, especially if there are no family members who are willing to take on the responsibilities of surrogate pet ownership. It happens so frequently, in fact, that estimates suggest some 100,000 to 500,000 pets are admitted to a shelter after their owner’s death or incapacitation. How do these once companions end up in shelters?

Often, it is the friends, family, or children of the deceased that surrender them. Perhaps they do not have the room income to care for the animal, or have tried to care for it but do not know how to do so appropriately. Still others might have allergies, small children, or other extenuating circumstances that make caring for an animal difficult or nearly impossible.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe ASPCA estimates that about 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. For many people, their pet is a valued member of the family. They think of their pet not as a piece of property, but as a beloved companion. If you are one of these people, it is important to consider what will happen to your cherished pet when you are not around to care for it. A pet trust is an estate planning tool which can give you piece of mind that your pet will be looked after even if you cannot be the one to do so.

What Is a Pet Trust?

A trust is an arrangement that holds property or money for a beneficiary, often for when the creator of the trust passes away. Since a person cannot leave money or property directly to an animal, a pet trust legally enforceable arrangement regarding how your pet will be cared for in the event that you cannot care for it.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerIn the process of preparing your estate plan, you have probably given a great deal of thought to which of your children, grandchildren, or other loved ones will receive certain assets or a portion of your estate. For example, if you only have one soon-to-be teenage grandchild, you may decide that he or she should inherit your paid-off car. With all of these considerations to be made, it can be relatively easy to forget about the companion animals with whom you share you home. Can your estate plan include provisions for caring for your dog or cat after your death?

Understanding Pet Trusts

The short answer is yes. There are ways that you can provide for the protection and well-being of domestic animals in your estate plan. Illinois law allows you to establish a trust with the sole purpose of providing care for “one or more designated domestic or pet animals.” The law itself is not very specific as to what types of animals may be covered, but case law precedents have been set to allow for the care of dogs, cats, horses, and a variety of others.

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