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Considering pets during estate planning

When people begin the estate planning process, they often seek to insure that all members of their family are covered in the event of the planner's death. This can include adding family members to a will or trust or making other estate planning provisions. Family members and beneficiaries can come in many forms, and can even include those of the four-legged variety.

In some families the pet is an important member, as central to everyday life as anyone else in the household. In these cases, it may be beneficial for a person to create an estate planning document that relates to the care and maintenance of the pet after the owner's death. Using a trust or a will can assist those in Nevada who may wish to add Fido or Fifi to their estate planning efforts.

In one recent case, an elderly woman passed away leaving her beloved 11-year-old cat. An animal lover throughout her life, the owner was concerned about the care of animals after her death. Due to this concern, she added language in her will, written about 20 years prior to her death, directing that any animal she owned at the time of her demise was to be euthanized.

However, when she passed away, the trustee of her estate decided not to put the elderly cat to death despite the directive in the estate planning document. Going against the directive of the trust creator is fairly rare and generally requires the approval of a court. The trustee argued to the court that the elderly lady would have wanted to save the cat had she reconsidered the terms of the will. The trustee additionally pointed out the extent of care given to the cat and the long-time animal rights support by the now-deceased woman. In this case the trustee was able to persuade the court and the cat was spared and a small endowment was set aside for the cat.

When a person in Nevada begins estate planning, they would do well to consider all potential beneficiaries, human and not. This full consideration may assist in avoiding questions regarding the disposition of property after the death. It may be helpful to create charts or graphs detailing all assets as the process begins so as to ensure no one is left out and all are treated in the manner intended.

Source: Petside, "Saving a Senior Pet: The Story of Boots," Charlotte Reed, April 16, 2012

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