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Don't forget to include Fido in your estate plans

Are you someone who cares deeply about a family pet? If so, chances are that you go out of your way to make sure your pet is leading a happy and healthy life. But have you ever considered what would happen to your pet if a hurricane or another natural disaster hit Florida?

This is a situation many people on the East Coast faced with Superstorm Sandy and Golf Coast residents faced during Hurricane Katrina. When residents were forced to evacuate their homes, pet owners were faced with difficult decisions about whether they could take their pet along to shelters.

These people learned all too well the importance of having a plan in place for beloved pets should disaster strike again. According to a spokeswoman from the trusts and estates counsel for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, every pet owner should have both a disaster plan and an estate plan to protect their furry family member.

Not only would this provide a safeguard for the pet in case of a natural disaster, it would also provide guidance if your pet was to outlive you and need to be cared for by someone else. Sadly, the ASPCA estimates that as many as 100,000 are turned over to animal shelters each year because their owners pass away or can no longer care for them.

The ASPCA spokeswoman said pet owners should consider having an estate plan in place for their pets, similar to one they would have for their children. The plan should name guardians for the pet in case the owner dies, and some may even consider a pet trust to help support the pet financially through the remainder of its life.

According to a survey by the ASPCA of 1,000 pet owners, only 17 percent had an estate plan in place for their dog or cat. Hopefully, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, more pet owners are encouraged to take this important step. Talk to an estate planning lawyer today for more information.

Source: CNBC, "Estate Planning for Your Pet? Superstorm Argues Yes," Jacoba Urist, Nov. 12, 2012

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