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Make sure your furry family members are taken care of via a trust

When people in Florida sit down to work out their estate planning, they often think of the standard sorts of beneficiaries: children and grandchildren, spouses or charitable organizations. One way people can ensure that their loved ones are taken care of is via a trust, which can specify a trustee who can administer funds for another person or for an organization.

Increasingly, people want to make sure that the animals they consider to be part of the family -- their pets -- are looked after if they are no longer around for them. In 46 states, including Florida, there are legal methods to set up trusts for the benefit of pets. While pets can't be left money directly, funds can be left to a trust where a human trustee can ensure the pets are cared for.

In some sense, the motivation for setting up a pet trust is similar to that of any other asset: to keep it in the family. Valuable assets could be auctioned if they are not accounted for in a will, and so could animals that are considered to be valuable or have high costs of maintenance, such as a horse.

In many cases, though, animals such as cats or dogs might only have sentimental value to their owners. However, this can be enough to motivate someone to establish a trust for a pet. Many people may not realize that expenses for pet owners or caregivers can add up relatively quickly. Estimates are that the average dog costs its owner more than $600 per year for food and care. People who want to ensure their pets are cared for by trusted family or friends can consult with estate planning attorneys to make sure their wishes can be carried out.

Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette, "Trusts provide safety net for pets," Lisa Eckelbecker, Feb. 10, 2013

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